The traditional shipbuilders of the Gujarat coastal town of Mandvi fear that the
The approaching Cyclone Biparjoy could hit their industry hard, as ships under construction on the coast cannot be easily evacuated to safety.
Government officials have been indifferent to their concerns, a local businessman complained on Wednesday. Cyclone Biparjoy is expected to make landfall between Mandvi and Karachi, Pakistan, on Thursday evening.
Mandvi has been known for its shipbuilding industry for more than 300 years. In this town in Kutch District, seaside workshops build large wooden ships capable of transporting 2,200 to 3,000 tons of goods. “It takes two years to build a ship. Building a ship costs us around 50 to 70 lakh rupees,” said Abdullah Yousuf Madhvani, who runs one such workshop.
“We fear that the cyclone will destroy the ships that are in various stages of construction,” he said, pointing to a 3,000-ton ship that has been under construction for two years and is almost complete.
However, while they are being built, these bulky ships cannot be moved to safer locations off shore.
At least 20 ships are located on the city’s shores in various stages of development. Ali Baksh, a carpenter, said they build 2,000 to 3,000 ton ships with a height of 24 to 30 feet.
“Our ancestors started this industry 300 years ago. We carry on the tradition. The lifespan of a metal ship is 16 to 25 years. But the lifespan of a wooden ship is 100 years. When the wood in a part of a ship degenerates, we rebuild that part, which is not possible with metal-hulled ships,” Madhvani said.
Ships built in Mandvi go to Somalia, other countries on the African coast and the Gulf countries to deliver and return goods, he said.
“If the cyclone damages our ships, we’re ruined,” he added.
To protect ships under construction, workers have placed sandbags under them and added wooden support frames to keep them from tipping over. Aslam Malek, another shipbuilder, said the base being prepared at his shipbuilding site was destroyed due to the violence of the waves that pounded the coast in recent days.
“But the government has not listened to our concerns and has not done anything,” he said.