Seatrade Global – South Asian shipbreaking yards have claimed at least 15 lives this year

(Written by Lee Hong Liang)

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22 May 2014 – The often hazardous working conditions for shipbreakers have claimed the lives of at least 15 workers so far this year in Bangladesh and India, according to NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

Brussels-based NGO Shipbreaking Platform is urging the shipping industry to stop selling their end-of-life ships to the shipbreaking beaches of South Asia, and instead demand sustainable and safe ship recycling in modern facilities.

This month alone, three shipbreaking workers lost their lives in Chittagong, Bangladesh, including 40-year-old Mohsin who slipped and fell while working on the Magdalene, a ship that used to be owned by Hamburg-based Johann M K Blumenthal, according to the non-profit organisation.

NGO Shipbreaking Platform further detailed that Amjad Hossen was crushed by a falling steel plate while dismantling the Barbaros G ship in Bangladesh. The ship used to be owned by Turkish firm Negmar Denizcilik Yatirim AS.

Another worker Saidur Rahman died on his way to the hospital after a gas cylinder exploded on the Kima, a ship owned by South Korea’s Sunwoo Merchant Marine Company.

In addition, nine workers have been critically injured in Bangladesh, including serious burns to hands and faces.

Elsewhere in Alang, India, two workers were killed in March while working in Plot 20, owned by Amit Sheth, NGO Shipbreaking Platform quoted the Times of India. In April, four workers were crushed under steel plates that fell from beached end-of-life ships, the organisation quoted local sources as saying.

“The owners of shipbreaking yards in South Asia need to ensure the health and safety of workers, but ship owners such as Blumenthal, who sell their vessels to substandard facilities and refuse to take responsibility for the safe and clean recycling of their ships, become complicit in these accidents,” said Patrizia Heidegger, executive director of NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

“These deaths and injuries are the consequences of these companies wanting to make the biggest profit on the sale of their old ships.”

NGO Shipbreaking Platform added that a major accident in April in Chittagong claimed four lives after they inhaled carbon dioxide when a gas cylinder exploded from a ship owned by Russia’s Fesco.

In January, another worker was killed by a falling steel plate at a Bangladeshi yard while dismantling a ship belonging to APL, an arm of Singapore’s NOL.

“This long and sad list of fatal accidents and severe injuries shows a clear lack of safety measures in the industry,” said Muhammad Ali Shahin, Bangladesh coordinator of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

“It shows that the workers are not well trained, their activities are 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.”

NGO Shipbreaking Platform said it has informed all the shipowners mentioned above about the accidents that occurred on their vessels, and urged them to adopt a sustainable ship recycling policy.

The organisation also highlighted that Norwegian shipping firm Teekay announced that it will change its ship recycling practices after it was being informed that two workers were severely burned in an explosion while working on its beached oil tanker.