1998: Investigative Reporting

1998: Investigative Reporting

Gary Cohn and Will Englund
For their compelling three-part series on the international shipbreaking industry, "The Shipbreakers," that revealed the dangers posed to workers and the environment when discarded ships are dismantled.

December 7, 1997

Scrapping ships, sacrificing men

Raul Mendoza knew that scrapping ships was dangerous, knew about the smoke and the fumes and the accidents. He'd worked in Baltimore, where asbestos clouded the air, and North Carolina, where oil spilled into a river, and California, where workers were told to lie to government inspectors.But he needed a job. So, on Dec. 22, 1995, in Brownsville, Texas, he climbed into the hold of the USS Yukon, an old Navy tanker. Working in total darkness without safety equipment, he walked across a girder. Then came the scream.

December 7, 1997

'You're going to die anyway'

This dusty, dingy corner of South Texas is a near-perfect place to carry on a dirty job like ship scrapping.Here along the Rio Grande, in a region that has the highest percentage of people living below the poverty line of any American metropolitan area, residents have had to contend in recent years with tick-borne fever, a high concentration of babies born with malformed brains and killer bees. It is one of the few places in the United States where leprosy has not been stamped out.

December 8, 1997

The curious captains of a reckless industry

When the U.S. Navy began its great sell-off of surplus ships in 1991, Richard Jaross was among the first to see an opportunity.He began dismantling Navy ships at a California scrapyard, where workers were exposed to lead and asbestos. He came to Baltimore to help put together the ill-fated Coral Sea project. He then set up a scrapyard in Wilmington, N.C., but the state shut it down for mishandling asbestos, polluting a river and contaminating the soil with oil and lead.

December 9, 1997

A Third World dump for America's ships?

This is where the world dumps its ships, worn out and ready to be torn apart.To the left and right, ships lie stranded along six miles of beach, in a hundred stages of demolition. Tankers, freighters, fish processors and destroyers -- smashed, cut, rusting, smoking -- are packed close together. This is the end of the line.

December 9, 1997

Vessel's last voyage ends on Indian sands

The last voyage of the Nikolai Pogodin, a Russian freighter plagued by debt and barnacles, ended in the hopeless hour before dawn on the beach at Plot No. 20.The lights of the Pogodin glimmered out in the bay, seeming for a long time not to be moving - but the ship was charging out of the dark night straight toward the beach at Alang. As it came closer, the outline of the hull became visible, set off by the white foam at the bow.

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H.L. Mencken, the 'Sage of Baltimore'