Business is booming at a sea dock in western Turkey, where five hulking cruise ships are being dismantled for scrap metal sales after the COVID-19 pandemic all but destroyed the industry, the head of a ship recyclers' group said Friday.
Cruise ships were home to some of the earliest clusters of COVID-19 as the pandemic spread globally early this year.
In March, U.S. authorities issued a no-sail order for all cruise ships that remains in place.
On Friday, dozens of workers stripped walls, windows, floors and railings from several vessels in the dock in Aliağa, a town 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of Izmir on Turkey's west coast. Three more ships are set to join those already being dismantled.
Before the pandemic, Turkey's ship breaking yards typically handled cargo and container ships, Kamil Onal, chairman of a ship recycling industrialists' association, told Reuters.
"But after the pandemic, cruise ships changed course toward Aliağa in a very significant way," he said of the town. "There was growth in the sector due to the crisis. When the ships couldn't find work, they turned to dismantling."
Onal said some 2,500 people work at the yard in teams that take around six months to dismantle a full passenger ship. The vessels arrived from Britain, Italy and the U.S.
The shipyard aims to increase the volume of dismantled steel to 1.1 million metric tons by the end of the year, from 700,000 metric tons in January, he said.
"We are trying to change the crisis into an opportunity," he said.
Even the ships' nonmetal fittings do not go to waste as hotel operators have come to the yard to buy useful materials, he added.
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