Recycling International – India’s shipbreakers in safety spotlight

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22 August 2014 - India: The Indian government is contemplating updating labour laws for its shipbreaking industry, The Hindu newspaper has reported. However, it has been claimed that any such move would have little impact on the ‘cycle of deaths’ at Alang, the largest ship scrapping site in the world.

Thirteen workers died at the Alang yard in the first six months of 2014 while the annual average is 10, it is reported. This increase is attributed in part to the poor implementation and breaking of safety laws, and more specifically to ‘improper cleaning’ and time issues.

‘Earlier, cutting a ship would take about six months; now it’s done in one and a half months,’ a gas cutter is quoted as saying. Another dismisses the supposed commitment of yards to the improvement of working conditions as ‘just for show’. Furthermore, it is claimed that the Ship Breaking Code issued by India’s steel ministry in 2013 exists only on paper.

According to industry insiders, Indian shipbreakers routinely pay a sum of US$ 5000 to get clearance for shipbreaking from customs officials, as well as the Gujarat Pollution Control Board and the Gujarat Maritime Board. Even some police sources have suggested the industry is ‘fixed’.

Regarding various scrapping accidents, the police admits it has launched separate investigations into ‘likely negligence’ on the part of the aforementioned authorities. Alang provides direct employment for more than 50 000 people and annually produces 3.5 million tonnes of re-rollable steel.