After building wooden ships for the last 5,000 years, the historic Beypore shipyard in Kerala, India, is about to close down.

Orders for its speciality – a type of dhow called an uru – have finally dried up, the Nahvind Times reported.

Beypore was a regular source of ships for Arabian traders for 1,500 years from 500 AD.

But its fame as a shipbuilding centre since 3000 BC, the age of the ancient Mesopotamian Sumerian civilisation, was brought to light by a Captain Iwata, founder member of the Association of Sumerian Ships in Japan.

Urus at Beypore

In 1990 he found the picture of a ship preserved in a cuneiform tablet in the Louvre museum in Paris. It had all the attributes of a Beypore-built vessel, down to the wooden nails and coir-lashed planks.

He came to Beypore and had a 300-ton wooden ship built and named Ki-en-gir, an ancient name for Sumeria.

Until 1918, when the First World War ended, Beypore shipyard was always busy. Then business slackened as steel ships took over the cargo business.

Then there was a profitable business making cargoships modelled on the famous sailing clipper ships of Europe, but fitted with petrol engines.

The period between 1930 and the late 1980s was a time of moderate prosperity for Beypore, as Arab millionaires flush with oil money wanted to make elaborate dhows for family outings.

In its heyday, Beypore built 20 dhows a year. The last ship to be built was a 130-foot-long dhow for an Arab customer completed in 2005.

The cost of such a ship, which takes four years to build, would be about INR 30m ($653,000).

Today there are only dilapidated sheds, once used for protecting the dhows from the torrential Malabar rains.

And the Indian government has decided to make the town of Beypore into a minor port at a cost of INR 5bn.