The Independent – Condition of ship-breaking still not up to the mark

(Written by NaziMuddin Shyamol)

7 July 2013 - Despite there being more than 140 ship-breaking yards in the Sitakunda coastal area in Chittagong, only around 70 yards are active and have ships while the rest are not that active as they don’t have ships, a recent survey of NGOs disclosed.

Sources said, the remaining ship-breakers are not able to buy that many ships as last year as the international market is on high and the local market is low. However, the country imported the highest number of recyclable ships last year, with iron plates weighing 2.86 million tonnes.

Some of the ship-breakers allegedly took over the entire business of scrap iron while the rest occupy the coastal lands by taking lease from the district administration, sources said.

Despite the overall condition of ship-breaking, it is still not up to the mark.

The breakers are releasing the liquid and solid waste into the sea water and around the environment regularly, with around 40 ship-breaking yards claiming themselves as ISO 30000 certified by local agencies but not at all meeting any requirements of the international standard, one researcher of NGO preferring anonymity said.

Mohammad Ali Shahin, program manager of non government development organisation YPSA and a ship breaking expert, told The Independent that some Bangladeshi ship-breakers are misleading the international market by saying that they have Green Certificate. But actually, green certificate is issued by a UK based agency depending on the level of Air, Water and Solid Polution (standard developed based on ISO 14064 Part III).

He said, “Additionally, during obtaining of the environment clearance certificate from the Department of Environment, given the Bangladesh scenario facilities such as solid waste management are not available, which is the prime requirement for the DOE certificate. So they are misleading the international market and also violating the national legal requirement. The ship-breakers are admitting to the international market that green certificate is enough for the approval of the government to import and cut ships, and on other side, they are violating the legal requirement of DoE/MOEF. I have information from reliable sources and found that presently, four or five ship breakers have already obtained Green Certificate and few others are under process with the help of a consultant named Sanjay Panjabi,” he added.

He also alleged that this person did the same in India, where Indian ship-breakers don’t have any facilities for the protection of air and water pollution.

He was producing the green certificates where the Green Certificate standard did not allow certificates to any companies who don’t have those facilities for air and water pollution.

Sources said, the ship-breakers of Bangladesh imported the highest number of recyclable ships, with iron plates weighing 2.86 million tonnes in last year.

Chittagong-based ship-breakers said about 260 ships have been imported in 2012, which is the highest in the last five years, when the industry saw many ups and downs due to legal complexities.

The breaking of old scrap ships have come to threaten the lives of the workers who are engaged for cutting ships without any safety measures in Chittagong.

Besides, breaking of the old scrap ships pollute the environment alarmingly in the coastal area under Sitakunda upazila in the district.

The old scrap ship-breaking industry is prime cause of the pollution of water of the sea, air and local environment there.

Sources said, the ship-breaking industry started its journey in 1970 and since then has been polluting the environment of the locality.

Around 40,000 workers engaged in the ship-breaking industries of Chittagong are now working in a hazardous atmosphere at high risk of life in the handling of old equipment used to scrap ships as well as some vulnerable chemicals in their daily work.

A total of four types of old vessels are scrapped in the shipyards of Sitakunda.

The vessels are Turbine Tanker (TT), Motor Vessel (MV), Steam Vessel (SV) and Fishing trawler (FT).

Of them, scrapping Turbine Tankers is very dangerous. Sources said, the workers used cut the ship with gas without any precautionary measures.

They have no lifejackets, masks, hand gloves, sunglasses, safety shoes etc. They used to work with life risk at the shipyards.

There are no scientific systems for cutting the scrap ships.

They have no register at the yards either, causing listless death in unwanted accidents.