Ship-breaking (also known as ship recycling, ship demolition, ship dismantling, or ship cracking) is a type of ship disposal involving the breaking up of ships for either a source of parts, which can be sold for re-use, or for the extraction of raw materials, chiefly scrap. Modern ships have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years before corrosion, metal fatigue and a lack of parts render them uneconomical to operate. Ship-breaking allows the materials from the ship, especially steel, to be recycled and made into new products. This lowers the demand for mined iron ore and reduces energy use in the steelmaking process. Fixtures and other equipment on board the vessels can also be reused. While ship-breaking is sustainable, there are concerns about the use by poorer countries without stringent environmental legislation. It is also labour-intensive, and considered one of the world's most dangerous industries.
In 2012, roughly 1,250 ocean ships were broken down, and their average age was 26 years. In 2013, the world total of demolished ships amounted to 29,052,000 tonnes, 92% of which were demolished in Asia. As of January 2020, Alang Ship Breaking Yard (India) has the largest global share at 30%; followed by Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard (Bangladesh), China and Gadani ship-breaking yard (Pakistan). Alang Ship Breaking Yard (India) currently has the world's largest ship recycling destination, followed by Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard in Bangladesh and Gadani in Pakistan.
The largest sources of ships are China, Greece, and Germany respectively, although there is a greater variation in the source of carriers versus their disposal. The ship-breaking yards of India, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan employ 225,000 workers as well as providing many indirect jobs. In Bangladesh, the recycled steel covers 20% of the country's needs and in India it is almost 10%.
As an alternative to ship-breaking, ships may be sunk to create artificial reefs after legally-mandated removal of hazardous materials, or sunk in deep ocean waters. Storage is a viable temporary option, whether on land or afloat, though all ships will be eventually scrapped, sunk, or preserved for museums.