UK cruise ships scrapped in India’s ship graveyard

2nd March 2021 | Recycling

Two UK cruise ships have been scrapped on an Indian beach despite assurances they would continue to be operated. Ships at the end of their lives are considered hazardous waste and it is illegal to send them to developing countries from the UK. But months after being sold at auction to buyers outside the UK they were then sold on as scrap for double the price.

As they were set to be used for further trading when they left UK waters, their arrival in India does not break UK law. An investigation by the BBC’s File on 4 programme found at least 13 other ships, mostly cargo ships, linked to the UK had arrived at the scrapping beaches of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh since the start of 2020.

Ship graveyard

The Marco Polo and the Magellan were sold at auction in November after their owners Cruise and Maritime Voyages went into administration. The Marco Polo was built in the 1960s and was one of the world’s last surviving ocean cruise liners. It was scheduled to take UK passengers to the Amazon and Norway this year, but its final voyage was to Alang in India. The ship-breaking yards of Alang dominate a stretch of muddy beach just up the coast from Mumbai in north-west India, referred to as the world’s largest ship graveyard.

The ship was bought at auction for around £2m by offshore company Highseas Ltd. After the sale, it was released from UK waters on the condition it would be used for “further trading”. HighSeas Ltd said the cruise ship would be used as a floating hotel in Dubai. But two months after taking ownership of the Marco Polo, it was sold as scrap for around £4m. HighSeas Ltd director Rishi Arggawal said it was always their intention the Marco Polo would be sold to new owners “but regrettably, the intended buyers in Dubai refused to take delivery”.

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