The Ruins of Agena Shipyard

The remains of Agena Shipyard sit quietly by the Bachimen fishery port. Built and operated by American company Agena in the Japanese colonial period, Agena Shipyard had its glory days. For context, much of the region’s prosperity back then was due to its land being rich in precious metals. The gold and copper ores mined in nearby Jinguashi used to be transported to the shipyard by train, and it was from there that these ores were shipped to Japan. That particular stretch of railway was also a key route connecting Ruifang and Keelung.

However, the sharp decline of the industry combined with internal mismanagement and resulting insolvency had forced the abandonment of the site. Decades of being battered by the sun, the winds and the rain have taken a toll on the once handsome shipyard. Silent and forgotten, it sits brokenly in the knowledge that the important role it once played had only ever been transient. Like an old man unable to catch up with the passing of time and whose contributions have been forgotten, it has become out of place in the Keelung cityscape and a stranger in its own land. People forget that its ruins, like the ruins of many other sites like itself, represent an important part of Keelung’s recent history.

Wandering through the ruins of Agena Shipyard was like taking a walk in an alternate universe. Leafy vines crept up the walls tattooed with graffiti. As I stood in a spot and spun, it was like looking through a kaleidoscope. The evening sky was aflame with salmon pink, fiery orange and vivid purple, and at every turn the solemn, uncompromising grey of a crumbling wall blocks out a different section of the striking sunset.

A close shave with demolition in February 2016 revived interest in Agena Shipyard (if only ironically so). The landlord of the piece of land that Agena Shipyard had been sitting on decided that profit was to be made by completely demolishing the ruins and beginning a series of new developments on the freed up space. Following this, without any consultation with Keelung city, an order for demolition was made. It was only when the excavators sent by Agena had already torn down the four main walls that Keelung was able to intervene to put a stop to the operation. The Agena Shipyard has since been recognized as a site of historical interest and has been granted protected status.

I visited after the incident. Four main walls, reduced to piles of rubble. It presented a stark reminder that while Agena Shipyard might have escaped demolition, the many other abandoned vestiges dotted across Keelung and the history they represent might not be as lucky. I was hit with the realization that by sitting back passively, I would be just as guilty as the person ordering for a site to be cleared to make way for more profitable developments.

 

Nearby attractions: A five minute walk over the Peace bridge will lead you to the Cheng-Bing fishery port and fishery building.

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