Daily Star – More Deaths in Shipbreaking Yards

Daily Star illustration


28 Dec 2009 – Editorial Apathy to workers’ safety is inexcusable

IT is shocking that workers engaged in ship breaking continue to die in job related accidents. The recent casualty of four deaths and 13 injuries occurred when an oil tanker that was being pulled down exploded. Reportedly, in the last 20 years as many as 1000 persons have died in Bangladesh in accidents connected with ship breaking.

The statistics of injury are perhaps much more than the deaths. And those who survive are alive, but only just, having suffered most debilitating injuries and left dependent on others’ mercy for the rest of their life. We call on the owners to adequately compensate the relatives of the dead and the injured.

The matter has occupied a great deal of media space and time over the last several years, primarily because of the severe danger to men and environment that the industry poses. The fact that the ship breaking yards have been categorised as extremely dangerous appears not to have drawn anybody’s attention as yet except for the high court and environmental activists.

Regrettably, although the Supreme Court had stayed the order of the High Court of 17 Mar this year, that among other directives had asked the government to close down all ship breaking yards which did not have environmental clearance, the other very pertinent directives, that would have stymied the ill effects of the industry, have not been implemented as yet.

The matter has taken a very serious proportion given the fact that over the last one year the number of ship breaking yards in Sitakund have sprouted up to almost double that of last year. And none of these has clearance of the Department of Environment. The flouting of rules and directives is simply not acceptable.

What is even more undesirable is that the concerned authorities have taken no action against the owners of those yards that neither have clearance nor proper documents that make them eligible to apply for clearance. There is an unholy nexus that has allowed this business to disregard rules with impunity. And one is not sure that those contracted to undertake the tasks have the necessary equipment and expertise.

The apathy shown to the safety of those working in this industry, not to speak of the blatant indifference to the hazard that it poses to the environment, by the relevant agencies and departments, is simply deplorable.

We demand that not only should the government move immediately to close down all unauthorised ship breaking yards, it should also take steps to implement the directives of the court. It must also immediately employ all the necessary oversight mechanisms to ensure safe working conditions for the workers and make certain that hazards to the environment are removed.