Mauritania is Home to World’s Largest Ship Graveyard

Mauritania is Home to World’s Largest Ship Graveyard
Source: Sebastian Losada/Creative Commons

Where do ships go to die? For many, the answer is the Bay of Nouadhibou in Mauritania. With more than 300 abandoned boats, it has the distinction of being the world’s biggest ship graveyard.

The ships come from all around the world and are varied. They include fishing trawlers, cargo vessels and naval cruisers. Many of them were disposed of in the 1980s when Mauritania’s fishing industry was nationalized but others have reportedly arrived more recently. 

 For boat owners, it is more cost-effective to abandon their ships to decay than to dismantle them. Local officials in the economically challenged country are reportedly open to bribes to look the other way. 

The environmental impact is profound. Substances like asbestos, lead-based paints and oil can leak into the waters. 

Despite the environmental hazards, the deteriorating ships unintentionally serve as habitats for marine life, thereby supporting the fishing sector. A salvage industry has also reportedly arisen, capitalizing on the stranded vessels, perpetuating the existence of the world's largest ship graveyard.  

Despite numerous proposals aimed at assisting Mauritania in cleaning up the ships, none have come to fruition.

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