Ecologist – How We Poison Bangladesh with Toxic Ship Carcasses

(Written by Andrew Hickman)

23 February 2010 - Workers are dying in Bangladesh’s shipyards because the west’s shipping industry – including UK companies – is not taking responsibility for the disposal of ageing vessels

They are known as ‘cutters’: men who enter the tanks of huge ships, armed with a blowtorch, sunglasses and a rag to cover their mouths. Their job is to cut slabs from ships’ hulls that are sent to steel mills for re-rolling.

The 50 or so cutters working in Bangladesh’s ship-breaking industry who entered the 275 metre long Agate on a December morning last year had been told by their bosses that the ship was ‘clean’ – free from dangerous oil and gas residues.

But when sparks from their cutting equipment hit the bottom of the tank, there was a massive explosion.

‘It was the main gas tank in the ship. Its size was huge. I was to cut one side of the tank. Other workers also started cutting the tank. After some time the tank exploded with a tremendous bang and the tank burst into flames. I was knocked out and don’t know what happened afterward,’ said Noor Alam (pictured), one of the injured workers.

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