It’s the final destination for grand cruise ships that are no longer wanted – and during COVID-19, it’s filling up faster than ever.
It’s the final destination for grand cruise ships that are no longer wanted – and during COVID-19, it’s filling up faster than ever.

Cruise graveyard where ships are left to rot

When cruise ships make their last journey, it is often to this grim place.

A "ship graveyard" on the east coast of Turkey is where unwanted ships, including massive luxury cruise liners, are sent to be broken down for scrap metal.

And during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the multi-billion dollar cruise industry faces its biggest crisis, it risks filling up faster than ever before.

Huge vessels are brought in and breached at the shipyard at Aliaga where more than 1000 workers spend months pulling each one apart.

The cruise ship graveyard in Aliaga, Turkey. Picture: 7 News
The cruise ship graveyard in Aliaga, Turkey. Picture: 7 News

 

It takes months for more than 1000 workers to strip down each ship. Picture: Alamy
It takes months for more than 1000 workers to strip down each ship. Picture: Alamy

 

About 98 per cent of a ship can be turned into scrap metal, according to 7 News, with anything that can't - like life jackets - sold off.

Many of the world's most notable cruise ships have met their fate here, such as Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Fantasy and the world's first "mega cruise ship", Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas.

A camera fitted on the bridge of Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas filmed the ship's arrival at the shipyard last year.

The vessels – including luxury cruise liners – are stripped for scrap metal. Picture: 7 News
The vessels – including luxury cruise liners – are stripped for scrap metal. Picture: 7 News


But shipwreckers at Aliaga expect to have one of their busiest years as the COVID-19 crisis puts more ships out of use.

The multi-billion dollar cruise industry has been one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic, with global leisure travel ground to an almost complete halt and a series of high-profile outbreak scandals, such as the Ruby Princess in Sydney, having shaken public confidence in the sector.

The Cruise Lines International Association predicts the global industry will have lost $107 billion and 518,000 jobs by the end of this month.

"The main reason for the cruise ships coming to us is the COVID crisis," Ship Recyclers Association of Turkey general manager Ersin Kaptan told 7 News.

Turkish shipwreckers are having a particularly busy year. Picture: 7 News
Turkish shipwreckers are having a particularly busy year. Picture: 7 News


"Every time a crisis occurs in the maritime tourism industry, the crisis is reversed in our sector."

About a million tonnes of scrap metal is expected to be salvaged this year at the port at Aliaga alone.

Some cruise ships have returned to the seas with a limited capacity and strict new COVID-19 measures in place, although Australian travellers are unlikely to sail internationally for the rest of this year.

Princess Cruises has confirmed it would extend its pause on cruise operations in Australia through to December 18.

The pandemic has sent some cruise ships into early retirement. Picture: 9 News
The pandemic has sent some cruise ships into early retirement. Picture: 9 News

Last week, the company announced all future journeys with the Sun Princess and Sea Princess, including more than 50 from Australia, have been cancelled as it sold the ships to a mystery buyer.

Princess Cruises said the sale of the ships was in line with Carnival's move to a more efficient fleet.

"Sun Princess and Sea Princess contributed to significant growth in Australian cruising," Princess Cruises president Jan Swartz said.

"Both ships defined the premium cruise experience with Australians and New Zealanders spending close to 14 million nights aboard these ships.

"While it is never easy to say goodbye to any ship in our fleet, this will allow us to deploy newer ships, enhancing our offerings for Australia cruisers and focus on bringing into service exciting new builds like the upcoming delivery of Enchanted Princess."

Originally published as Cruise graveyard where ships are left to rot


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