Seatrade Global – Shipbreaking organisations demand action after four deaths

(Written by Gary Howard)

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10 April 2014 - The International Ship Recycling Association (ISRA) and NGO Shipbreaking Platform have called for immediate action to improve safety at shipbreaking beaches following four deaths at a Chittagong yard earlier this month.

Last week four unskilled workers were killed and three were injured when a gas cylinder exploded aboard a ship they were dismantling. The men all died of carbon dioxide inhalation.

“This sad accident shows the clear lack of safety measures in the industry,” says Muhammad Ali Shahin, Bangladesh coordinator of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “Shipbreaking workers are not well trained, their work is not supervised and they are either not provided with safety gear or no checks are made to ensure that they are actually able to properly use protective equipment. It is very obvious that nobody feels responsible for these men’s lives.”

“One of the survivors told me that he could have saved at least two of the workers if the yard had provided them with oxygen. Instead, the yard management wanted to hide the bodies. The families, who had been alerted of the accident, finally managed to break the gates of the yard. But it was unfortunately too late to save the workers.”

Robin Townsend of Lloyds Register, board member at ISRA commented: “Workers cannot be subject to unacceptable and deadly dangerous situations because the facility is ‘improving’ and at some time in the future will be ‘acceptable’. No shipowner should send his ship to facilities that have unacceptably dangerous common practices”.

“We demand that the shipbreaking industry takes measures to prevent accidents and injuries instead of trying to cover them up”, said Patrizia Heidegger, executive director of Brussels-based NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

“Whereas yard managers get caught in contradictory statements, some industry representatives even dare to deny the fact that these accidents happen at all. Moreover, we blame the ship owners who sell their vessels to Bangladesh and are not willing to take responsibility for the safe and clean recycling of their ships. These deaths and injuries are the direct result of wanting to make the biggest profit on the sale of their old ships.”

The incident occurred a few days before Seatrade Global reported on the commercial strength of the Indian shipbreaking market.