Tradewinds – Bangladesh scrap drought rolls on

(Written by Geoff Garfield)

24 November 2011 – The scrap ship-import hiatus hitting Bangladesh is set to extend into the New Year.

It means that one of the world’s top recycling nations will have gone almost three months without receiving any fresh tonnage.

The Bangladesh Ship Breakers’ Association (BSBA) has decided against returning to the High Court to seek a further import extension after the last one expired on 12 October.

BSBA advisor Captain Anam Chowdhury says it is because the beaching tide finishes on 27 November and the next does not start until 13 December.

Even if the breakers secured court permission to resume imports there would be insufficient time to bring vessels in this month.

So far this year, it is estimated that legal disruptions mean Bangladesh has so far recycled around 80 vessels of 7.5 million dwt, only around 1.5 million dwt ahead of China and well down on 2009 when numbers spiked.

The BSBA decision comes against the backdrop of the country’s Supreme Court setting an extended date of 14 December for the Ministry of Industries to submit the final version of long-awaited government rules to raise safety and environmental standards at the country’s shipbreakers.

Chowdhury says the BSBA could use this extension as grounds for asking the High Court to immediately reopen the country to imports but technically it is not feasible.

Also, the courts adjourn for holidays on 16 December and will not open again until the first week in January. It means there would be insufficient time between 14 and 16 December for the breakers to put their case before the Supreme Court. It also coincides with Christmas and New Year holidays of up to two weeks in Europe.

The current wrangling stems from petitioning of the Supreme Court appellate division by the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association (BELA), which represents pressure groups against a previous imports extension.

The death toll at yards worsened this week when a worker named locally as Mainul Hossain, 28, fell down a lift shaft at a Prime Group facility in Chittagong.

Chowdhury says fatalities caused by explosions had been eliminated in recent months — vessels now have to be delivered gas free for hotwork — but other accidents continued.

According to his figures, there have been 15 deaths so far this year, as compared to 13 in 2010 and 20 in 2009.

He claims that, despite fresh vessel imports being halted, some 60% to 70% of yards are working and they have enough to last until the end of January.

Some 5,000 tonnes of steel a day — close to 150,000 tonnes a month — is still being produced, he says.