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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Ship breaking ! and aircraft bone yard ! ~ all things do have an end !!


In life, all living things come to an end one day – yet partings are painful. In material World, things lose their importance and significance over a period of time, more so when newer things evolve.

2020 dawned not any differently but within a few days things have changed – lives have changed – it is no longer normal. People used to travel happily – airports were busy – one could sight an aeroplane lifting off at Meenambakkam almost every 5 minutes or so.  Inside the airport would resemble a crowded koyambedu – the price war in Airlines made air travel affordable while a couple of airlines vanished in the process.  All that a thing of the past, people are not travelling any longer.  Only those relocating back and travelling back to their native places is happening.  Aviation Hull – the aircrafts are costly – they were paying back well reaping rich revenue but all of a sudden most of them were grounded and to avoid high costs of parking fees in International Airports, big Airlines were parking them in far off deserts !! – unimaginable but reality now.

The sight of a very large vessel floating on water, carrying goods from one place to another offers imagination beyond dreams. Man has conquered the ocean sailing across with the aid of ships and boats which developed alongside mankind. Vessels have borne the key in history’s greatest explorations. The cargo - from slaves to modern day containers, dry and wet, live, frozen and refrigerated, big machineries, bulk cargo, liquid cargo – the variety is endless. But just as most things have a shelf life, ships also have a limited span of life. Depending upon the type of vessel and nature of goods carried, generally after 25-30 years ships are at the end of their sailing life. These vessels who have outlived its existence are sold and dismantled to recover the valuable steel. A very major % of the vessel consists of steel which can be rerolled besides valuable machinery such as generators, marine engines etc., There are various other miscellaneous material as well. 

They are taken to on a funeral voyage to the junk-yard – with high tide, they are simply intentionally run aground, as closer to the shore as possible, then cruelly cut into pieces manually, pulled a bit more, and eventually even the keel vanishes !!  

The Marine Hull Tariff provided ways of covering these ‘ dying ships ‘ under two different sections. Sec V of the erstwhile Marine Hull Tariff provided for coverage of funeral voyages from a place in a Port to the breakup yard or vessels lying at sheltered places awaiting break up. This was more of transit insurance and would cease upon beaching or starting up of breaking operations.  Another Section  provided for Ship breaking insurance – insurance of vessels in the course of being broken up. Here the Sum insured was to be Full purchase price + customs duty + port charges + any other government levy. The period was not on voyage basis but was to be reckoned in period of full months, arrived at the basis of actual LDT of the vessel. The policy though issued in Hull Department was more or less Fire Policy ‘C’ cover providing coverage against Fire, Lightning, Explosion / Implosion, Impact damage, Aircraft damage, Riot, strike, malicious damage and additional cover against Earthquake, STFI perils etc.,


Now read this – not pertaining to the mighty ship but to the aricrafts – sadly the boneyard.    Sad scenes as salvage crews pick apart once-mighty 747 jumbo jets at UK airfield after airline retired its entire 31-strong fleet due to plunge in air travel.  MailOnline reports that Airline salvage workers have begun to break up Boeing 747 jets in the Gloucestershire countryside as British Airways retires its whole 31-strong fleet of the large passenger jets amid a plunge in global air travel. Photographs showed the engines on some of the 747-400s having been removed at the former Royal Air Force site, which is also home to various flying schools and was once the Red Arrows base.

BA is retiring all of its 747 planes amid a continuing crisis for air travel after severe travel restrictions were brought in around the world when the Covid-19 crisis intensified across Europe in March.  The jets are being sent worldwide for storage and scrapping, with G-CIVD leaving Heathrow earlier this month for Castellon in Spain. Seven of the BA fleet remain at Heathrow, which is where the Kemble planes had been based.  Fourteen of the BA fleet are being stored 70 miles away at Cardiff Airport, including one in the historic livery of Boac (British Overseas Airways Corporation) which was the airline's predecessor.

Earlier this month, BA chief executive Alex Cruz said: 'We are starting the early retirement of our beautiful 747-400s as part of the reshaping of our airline.' In a letter to staff, the 54-year-old added: 'This is a necessary move reflecting the cliff-edge drop in premium long-haul travel, which may never recover to the levels we saw in 2019. 'If these were normal times, we would be celebrating the retirement of the Queens of the Skies with a great deal of noise including special commemorative flights and colleague events.  'Sadly, given the difficulty of operating during the pandemic, the farewell will be less lavish, but still heartfelt.

BA staff and plane enthusiasts are said to be keen for souvenirs from the jets, with ASI owner Mark Gregory saying the firm is receiving many inquiries from people keen to own a part from one of the jets. He told the BBC: 'I get a daily stream of emails from BA staff and 747 fanatics who want to buy a piece of a plane. A cut-out side section is popular which can be hung on the wall. 'These usually go for about £200 each. They are good aircraft and have done a lot of hours. They have definitely earned their keep.'  Mr Gregory added that there has been a ten-fold increase in airlines looking for storage facilities, with the company having 11 747s parked up, with some being dismantled and others going up for sale. He said engines make up around 80 per cent of the value of a retired plane, with some selling for more than £2million, although the Rolls-Royce ones on the BA 747-400s are expected to sell for less.  The 747-400s, which can take up to 15 weeks to dismantle, first began flying more than 30 years ago. Boeing sold almost 700 of the jets, which made them the best-selling version of the long-haul airliner.

The salvage company - ASI, which has 170,000 sq ft of hangarage at the airport, has space for up to 20 wide and 50 narrow bodied commercial aircraft and has disassembled nearly 600 around the world in its 18 years of operations. It comes as Gatwick Airport has cut one in four of its workforce or 600 posts - taking the number of jobs lost at big British firms since the pandemic past 252,000. Airplane manufacturing giant Rolls Royce has announced it would close a major UK site in Annesley, Nottinghamshire, by the end of 2022 - weeks after announcing 9,000 job cuts.

The travel sector is not expected to recover until 2023 as fears over quarantine and catching the virus push tourists to stay at home.  The re-opening of the Heathrow to New York route - the world’s most profitable air link - would help rescue long-haul airlines that rely heavily on trans-Atlantic travel, including BA and Virgin Atlantic. However, industry sources say US officials are likely to insist on Covid-19 testing at British airports before they agree to re-open their borders.

British Airways' Boeing 747-400 was performer with high reliability'- 'Queen of the skies'.   BA, which was the world's largest operator of the Boeing 747, described the 747-400 as 'a proven performer with high reliability' which boasts high reliability and has incorporated major aerodynamic improvements over earlier 747 models, which have a history stretching back 50 years. The aircraft's life began in April 1970 when BOAC - which would later merge with BEA to form today's airline - took delivery of its first Boeing 747-100, which was the 23rd to be constructed by Boeing, according to its line number.  BOAC then took delivery of another 14 aircraft over the next three years, with the 15th aircraft delivered in December 1973.   The  pandemic, which has seen most of the world's planes grounded for the best part of three months, has hastened its journey into retirement, especially as forecasters predict that passenger numbers will remain lower than normal, potentially for years to come.

.. .. .. and that is a change none could have forecasted earlier ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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