Turkey, the place where idled cruise ships go to die

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In its third quarter filing, Carnival Corporation said it planned to sell 18 “less efficient” ships in 2020, resulting in a 12% reduction of its nine-brand fleet. “Those ships were giving us a bad drain,” Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said during a recent webinar with the Society of American Travel Writers.

Going, going, gone

Without much of a market for second-hand tonnage, the main worth of the ships is the steel that makes up the superstructure.

If, for instance, Carnival Fantasy has 15,000 tons of steel in its superstructure, the scrap may sell for upwards of $4.7 million based on current global market prices–though other factors also come into play, such as local prices and demand.

Along with the risk of these market fluctuations, the buyer also takes on the uncertainty of just how much metal can be salvaged. Pre-1990s ships tend to have more steel in their hulls and underwater plating, but those built in the ’90s and after can bear lighter and stronger alloys.

Either way, steel and metal scraps will travel to a smelter to make rebar for construction projects around the world. Steel from some other dismantled ships can find its way to Turkey’s large car manufacturing industry, where it might become parts for a Toyota or a Ford.

A man works to break down a luxury cruise ship for scrap metal at the Aliaga ship recycling port on October 02, 2020 in Izmir, Turkey. Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Aluminum, copper, and stainless steel are also salvaged and resold, along with other valuable commodities that mostly remain in Turkey. The ripped out teak decks on Fantasy may end up in local shops, restaurants, and homes. Theater scenery and lighting may find its way into show productions. Even the tackiest artwork has some value, and can end up in restaurants throughout the country.

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