The Daily Star – Ship-breaking yard in Ctg fined, sued

18 October 2011 – A day after the death of four workers from toxic gas at the Jiri Subedar Steel Re-rolling Mills of Sitakunda, the Department of Environment (DoE) yesterday fined it Tk 25 lakh for not having proper safety measures in its ship-breaking yard.

Local police the same day filed a case against four of its officials, including its owner Lokman Hakim, under the penal code. Others accused in the case, lodged by Sub-inspector Aminul Islam, are its Director Abu Sayed, shift-in-charge Md Lokman and foreman Altaf Hossain.

Meanwhile, the government yesterday formed a three-member investigation committee, headed by additional secretary of the industries ministry ABM Khorshed Alam, to look into the matter.

The probe body has two representatives — from Bangladesh Marine Academy and Bureau Veritas — and is given seven days to submit a report.

The four labourers died and two others fell sick while dismantling scrap ship MV Bharata Bhum at the yard, adjacent to the mill, in Sonaichhari area of Sitakunda on Sunday.

A DoE team led by Director (Chittagong) Zafar Alam ordered the fines for cutting the old ship without permission from the government body, releasing toxic gas and not having precautionary measures in place, a DoE press release says.

The team found that the scrap ship had 61 cylinders, containing carbon dioxide gas, kept in its store-room carelessly. The statement also said the workers died as toxic gas was realising when they were working in the ship.

Ship-breaking yards in the coastal region have been conducting operations without adequate safeguards for years, disregarding repeated accidents and Supreme Court directives to ensure security of the workers’ lives.