Want to buy a lifeboat? How about a ballroom chandelier or soap once offered to passengers of a cruise ship?
The dusty markets in the west coast town of Alang are full of maritime souvenirs, salvaged from cargo ships, oil tankers and cruise liners that have been picked clean along the nearby beach.
The four-mile-long flea market looks like a museums of, say, the U.S. steamer Universe Explorer or luxury cruise liner China Sea Discovery.
The scavengers seem to have missed nothing — the big clocks and a captain’s log, deck chairs, stained couches, piles of romance novels, white urinals, broken video games, safety posters in Russian, menus in Greek — all the maritime world is here.
Nothing is too obscure to fetch a price, and vendors say buyers come from all over.
The big money comes from the guts of the ship — generators, compressors and air conditioning units for sale to factories; industrial blenders and buffet tables to restaurants. Lifeboats, lifejackets and searchlights end up on smaller boats plying the coast.
The biggest prize — steel and other metals — is sold to mills.
“Everything is valuable for us,” said Haresh Parmar of Shiv Breaking Co., whose company breaks down ships and resells them.
Fifteen years in the business, Parmar recalls salvaging a piano from one ship, some original art work and an antique helm. He gets most excited when he obtains a ship from the United States or Japan. They contain good quality steel, and older ships have valuable brass and copper fixtures.