HMS Ocean departed late September 2016 for a 6.5 month deployment to serve as Fleet Flagship of coalition naval strike operations against the Islamic State. Despite this prominent mission, this could well be her last deployment, as despite a recent $100 million upgrade, the 20 year old amphibious assault ship has a date with the Turkish scrapyard 2018. This will leave a 2 year gap in amphibious capability until the Royal Navy’s new class of carrier comes online in 2020. The 2 new ships of the Queen Elizabeth class will restore jet aircraft capability to the Royal Navy, which has been missing since the HMS Illustrious retired her fixed wing Harrier II and was refitted for helicopters in 2010.
HMS Ocean departs
HMS Ocean is the largest ship currently in the UK fleet. Numbers wise, the Royal Navy has far fewer, even if more capable combat ships, than at any time in the last century. Almost all of the RN ships from the Falklands era 35 years ago, have been retired, many before the end of their service lives in order to meet financial constraints imposed by the UK government. And by retired, we mean scrapped.
All of the dozen or so surviving Type 42 destroyers (two were sunk in the Falklands), all three Invincible Class carriers have been thus ‘recycled’. This despite heartfelt attempts from veterans and patriots to preserve some of the historic ships as museums, like HMS Victory, Lord Nelsons flagship from the 1805 battle of Trafalgar. It draws as many as 350,000 visitors a year.
Oddly enough, the only 2 remaining Type 42 destroyers belong to Argentina, one still in service and one as a museum. Sold to Argentina in the late 70s, they were in the fleet opposing the Royal Navy at the time of the Falklands conflict.
ARA Hércules (B-52)
So how and where does one scrap a ship as large as an aircraft carrier? The French carrier Clemenceau, along with four surplus US navy ships were scrapped in the UK in 2009, but drew considerable environmental protest due to tons of asbestos and other hazardous wastes which must be disposed of. Most RN decommissioned ships are now towed to the ship recycling facilities located near the city of Aliaga on Turkey’s Aegean coast.
One must presume that there are fewer environmental protesters in Turkey and labor rates for shipbreakers more competitive. And so it is here, that once proud warships, such as the Invincible and her sister Ark Royal are reduced to scrap steel and whatever reusable components can be salvaged. The last of the three Illustrious will be towed there soon.
But for the largest of ships, even the breakers at Aliaga are not big or secretive enough. One must go to India or Bangladesh for the breakers of Supertankers. Here can be found a truly dystopian apocalyptic beachscape.
This is one of the most dangerous work environments on earth. Pay can be as low as a few dollars a day for the more than 200,000 who work here. The environmental and worker safety concerns of Western Europe are conveniently a continent away.
HMS Ocean links
Scott Booth Bio:
Scott Booth Bio: Often found mucking about with 3D content development for visual simulations, or occasionally small UAS simulation. Usually found in the company of: salty NCOs, (yeah, you Tony), pilots- all types, gun nuts, manned space flight advocates, old car/truck/jeep fans, Sci-Fi readers, military historians, genius software programmers who like corny jokes, rocket scientists, dark beer drinkers, type-A sales guys, and other related near-do-wells.
Experience – 30 years visual simulation content development, company co-owner-founder – CG2 1995-2004, Small UAS simulation, AEgis-Vampire, Raven operator license, class 11-008, 2011.
Visual recognition expert, aircraft, armor, ships, subs, small arms, amateur military historian and shade tree auto mechanic.