Preserving Macau's seafaring soul

A 400-year-old port, Macau has long been closely linked with the sea.

As recently as the 1950s, Macau children would have grown up knowing they would likely become fishermen or shipbuilders: both industries were riding a wave, with nearly 10,000 fishermen and more than 30 enormous shipyards dotted across the tiny territory. The coastal villages were thriving and the ocean was teeming with fish, crabs and oysters.

But the fishing and shipbuilding industries collapsed in the 1990s. Not only were the territory's waters becoming increasingly polluted as China's Zhujiang Delta began to develop, but Macau's handcrafted wooden ships couldn't match the competitive prices from mainland China.

And, since hand making a wooden fishing junk would take one team about two months, their craftsmen could not compete with the efficient production of metal boats.

Once a buzzing shipbuilding hub - carefully crafting everything from shrimp-trawling junks with their billowing, fan-shaped sails to long, slender dragon boats made of teak - the last ship yard, Lai Chi Vun Shipyard, made its final vessel in 2005. Today the once-proud workshop comprises decaying building materials, washed-up trash and a few abandoned boats.

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