Ship Recycling : Worker’s safety in Bangladesh in question
In a country where labor rights are frequently overlooked and violated by various industry owners, it’s sadly unsurprising that workers in our shipbreaking yards endure perilous conditions, resulting in frequent accidents and even fatalities. A recent report from NGO Shipbreaking Platform reveals a troubling statistic: all shipbreaking accidents worldwide between July and September occurred in Bangladesh. During this timeframe, 111 ships were dismantled globally, with half of them, precisely 54, being scrapped in Bangladesh. While this translates to substantial profits for the owners, for the laborers working tirelessly in these toxic and hazardous ships, the benefits are minimal.
The four accidents during July-September involved workers falling off the ships they were dismantling, leading to three fatalities and one survivor with leg injuries. The owners’ blatant negligence regarding worker safety is reprehensible. NGO Shipbreaking Platform’s data shows that between 2005 and 2022, 249 people lost their lives in accidents in the shipbreaking yards in Sitakunda upazila, Chattogram. Workers are not only at risk of accidents but also exposed to toxic chemicals during the ship-dismantling process. Additionally, the growing number of shipbreaking yards in Sitakunda is causing environmental pollution in both the surrounding area and the sea.
Despite international regulations stipulating the removal of toxic elements from ships before being brought for breaking, many owners disregard these rules. Moreover, several shipbreaking yards unlawfully dump oil into the sea, further violating environmental laws. Shockingly, instead of prioritizing workers’ safety and environmental conservation, the Bangladesh Ship Breakers and Recyclers Association is allegedly lobbying the government to reclassify the industry from “red” to “orange,” exempting them from obtaining environmental impact assessments. This move is nothing short of absurd.
The shipbreaking industry ranks among the most perilous globally, making it imperative for industry owners to adhere to both national and international regulations to ensure environmentally friendly practices and safe ship recycling. Protecting workers from preventable accidents, often tantamount to structural murders, must be a top priority. There is an urgent need for a robust government oversight mechanism to guarantee compliance with these essential standards.
The situation calls for a comprehensive approach that addresses the multiple facets of this issue. First and foremost, stringent measures must be in place to enforce existing safety regulations for workers. Owners must be held accountable for providing a secure working environment, ensuring the well-being of those contributing to their profits. Beyond financial gains, the human cost of these accidents cannot be ignored.Banned Iranian Cargo Ship for Recycling at Alang Raises Concerns
Simultaneously, environmental concerns cannot be neglected. Shipbreaking activities have far-reaching consequences on the environment, from the improper disposal of hazardous materials to the unlawful dumping of oil into the sea. It is imperative to enforce international rules mandating the proper treatment of ships before dismantling and holding accountable those who violate these regulations.
The reported attempt by the Bangladesh Ship Breakers and Recyclers Association to influence the industry’s categorization for the sake of avoiding environmental impact assessments is alarming. Environmental assessments are critical tools for evaluating the potential ecological ramifications of industrial activities. Exempting shipbreaking from such assessments only exacerbates the risk to the environment and the communities living in proximity to these yards.
To address these pressing issues, a collaborative effort is needed. The government, NGOs, industry stakeholders, and international bodies must work together to establish and enforce stringent regulations. Furthermore, transparency and accountability mechanisms should be put in place to monitor and penalize non-compliance. The government’s role in overseeing and regulating the shipbreaking industry is pivotal, and it should prioritize the safety of workers and the protection of the environment.
In conclusion, the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh is facing a critical juncture where immediate and decisive action is imperative. Prioritizing the safety of workers and adhering to environmental regulations should be non-negotiable. The industry’s contribution to the national economy should not come at the expense of human lives and environmental degradation. It is time for a collective commitment to reform this sector, ensuring that it operates within the bounds of ethical, environmental, and humanitarian standards.