South Asian

Laws and Guidelines

Workers carrying chain, Chittagong - copyright Pierre Torset

The three South Asian countries are the biggest importers of toxic end-of-life ships today: 70% of all end-of-life vessels dismantled in 2012 were sold to shipbreaking yards located in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Because these ships are left on tidal beaches to be cut into pieces, the pollution of the coastal environment and the impact on fishermen’s livelihoods is extreme. Further on a tidal beach it is not possible to safely use cranes or lifting equiment which could prevent accidents causing injuries or deaths, and there is no access for rapid emergency response.

In India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform through its member organisations is pushing for substantial reforms of the shipbreaking sector by supporting legislation that will protect the environment and promote workers’ rights. When necessary the Platform brings the battle to court.


What the Platform is doing

In September 2008 the NGO Shipbreaking Platform through its member organization BELA (Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association) successfully filed a petition to the High Court to prevent the Greenpeace-listed toxic ship MT Enterprise from being dumped on the breaking beach of Chittagong. Six months later, the High Court issued rules to stop the import of toxic ships to Bangladesh and ordered the closure of all the  shipbreaking yards in Chittagong due to their lack of compliance with existing environmental and work safety regulations.

While the Ministry of Environment and Forest and the Ministry of Industries are working on providing clearer rules for ensuring safe and environmentally-sound shipbreaking, the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association manages to keep toxic end-of-life ships coming into Bangladesh via temporary import permits.

In March 2011 BELA petitioned again the Bangladeshi High Court calling for the implementation of the ban on imports of ships containing hazardous materials and asking for legal guarantees so that the ships would be broken in a safe and environmentally-sound way.

In October 2011, the Ministry of Industries posted on its website a draft of “The Ship Breaking and Ship Recycling Rules 2011”. BELA analyzed the document and concluded that it “is neither compliant with the directives of the Judgment or subsequent orders given by the High Court in Writ Petition No. 7260 of 2008 nor is the same adequate in protecting environment and the labourers.” Further BELA remarked that the provisions of the draft “have totally ignored the legally binding Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal”.

Read more about our Bangladeshi member organisations



Over the years, several orders by the Supreme Court of India clarified the roles and responsibilities of shipbreakers, concerned local and regional authorities, and shipowners (in providing Inventories of Hazardous Materials). However no national law specific to shipbreaking was ever passed. There are several other laws that apply to the sector: the Factories Act, 1948; the Water Act, 1974; the Air Act, 1981; and the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Besides laws, mores specific Rules were enacted to deal with the hazardous wastes present in the structure of end-of-life-ships: the MSIHC and Chemical Accident Rules, 1989; the Hazardous Waste Rules, 2002; the GMB Rules on Ship Breaking, 2006; and the Hazardous Wastes Rules, 2008.

On 30 July 2012, the Supreme Court of India prohibited end-of-life ships coming from OECD countries to enter Indian territorial waters without having been pre-cleaned of hazardous waste, in accordance with the Basel Convention. Still, ships continued to be imported into Alang and Mumbai – with Alang claiming the title of the world’s biggest shipbreaking yard.

See the 30 July 2012 judgment
Read more about our Indian member organisations



What the Platform is doing

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has visited the shipbreaking yards of Gadani, Pakistan in December 2012 and November 2013. Following the Platform’s visit in 2012, Islamabad-based member organisation Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) conducted a survey in the yards to investigate the working conditions. The findings were collected in a report called “Pakistan Shipbreaking Outlook: The Way Forward for a Green Ship Recycling Industry” that was presented on 28 October 2013 in Islamabad.  The research report is a joint publication of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform and SDPI, and outlines policy recommendations for improving working conditions and environmental protection in the shipbreaking yards of Gadani.

Contrarily to previous reports that focused mainly on the regulatory framework and the facilities needed to take care of the hazardous waste retrieved from the ships, ”Pakistan Shipbreaking Outlook: The Way Forward for a Green Ship Recycling Industry” also gives a voice to the exploited workforce in the shipbreaking yards, highlighting the risks they are exposed to on a daily basis. The findings include the facts that workers’ rights are not sufficiently protected, notably health and safety rights, freedom of association, workers’ welfare and benefits, and contractual rights.

See pictures the Platform took in the Gadani shipbreaking yards in 2012 and 2013
Read more about our Pakistani member organisations

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Press release – Brazilian government asked to stop dumping toxic ships on South Asian beaches

Brussels/Rio de Janeiro, 15 June 2017 – The Brazilian CONTTMAF trade union federation and its member SINDMAR have recently criticized the shipbreaking practices of Transpetro, the oil and gas transportation subsidiary of the Brazilian petroleum corporation Petrobras, majority-owned by the State.

Platform News – Worker killed when breaking the Hanjin Rome

Brussels, 18 May 2017 – Two workers lost their lives at the Chittagong shipbreaking yards in the last two weeks, bringing the total death toll this year to six workers. On 6 May, 26-year-old Shahinoor died at Jamuna Shipbreaking yard. He fell from a great height when he was breaking the HANJIN ROME.

Platform News – NGO Shipbreaking Platform presents Annual Report 2016

Brussels, 16 May 2017 – The NGO Shipbreaking Platform presents its Annual Report 2016. Last year, at least 52 workers lost their lives on the shipbreaking beaches in South Asia. The worst explosion in the history of shipbreaking struck an oil tanker beached… More