Sustainability Struggles in Bangladesh’s Shipbreaking Industry
In Bangladesh, shipyard owners are breaking down ships without proper clearance from the Department of Environment (DoE), violating the 2011 Hazardous Wastes and Shipbreaking Waste Management Rules. The Daily Star reported that the DoE fined two yards Tk 1 lakh (around 850 EUR) and mandated five other yards to obtain the necessary permissions.
The Bangladesh Ship Breakers and Recyclers Association (BSBRA) is urging the government to reclassify the shipbreaking industry from the “Red” to the “Orange” category. The “Red” category, outlined in the Environment Protection Regulations 2023, demands a second clearance from the DoE for each ship import and subjects the sector to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Shipbreakers argue that the mandatory clearance and the EIA, which can take “one and a half to two months,” significantly hinder the industry.
Following the intervention of the International Monetary Fund in July, restrictions on non-essential imports were lifted, allowing the issuance of letters of credit to resume. Since September, five vessels have been sold for scrapping on the beaches of Gadani. Calls are now being made for Pakistan to transition to sustainable ship recycling facilities away from beachfronts. In Gadani, experts recognize the urgent need to establish a landfill site for environmentally responsible waste management, develop basic healthcare facilities, provide adequate training and social welfare infrastructure, including a residential colony for workers, and improve road infrastructure for better connectivity and access to basic utilities like water and electricity.
Despite these challenges, viable options for transitioning the shipbreaking sector to industrial platforms that ensure full containment and safe use of industrial heavy lifting cranes have yet to be identified. This is crucial for the sector to align with the principles of a sustainable Blue Economy.
The current situation in Bangladesh highlights the industry’s non-compliance with environmental regulations, leading to fines and delays in shipbreaking activities. The BSBRA’s plea to reclassify the industry reflects the sector’s frustration with the cumbersome clearance process and the associated Environmental Impact Assessment. Shipbreakers argue that the delays in obtaining permission for shipbreaking, lasting up to two months, have a detrimental impact on the industry’s efficiency and productivity.
The lifting of restrictions on non-essential imports in July, facilitated by the International Monetary Fund, has reinvigorated the shipbreaking industry, leading to the scrapping of five vessels on Gadani’s beaches since September. However, this has also reignited the debate on the environmental sustainability of such practices. Calls for Pakistan to shift to sustainable ship recycling facilities away from beachfronts indicate a growing awareness of the environmental impact and the need for responsible waste management in the industry.
In Gadani, experts emphasize the necessity of developing a landfill site to manage waste responsibly, establishing basic healthcare facilities, providing comprehensive training for workers, and creating social welfare infrastructure, including residential colonies. Additionally, improvements in road infrastructure are deemed essential for better connectivity and access to basic utilities like water and electricity. These measures are crucial for ensuring the environmental and social responsibility of shipbreaking activities.
The shipbreaking sector’s shift to industrial platforms that guarantee full containment and the safe use of heavy lifting cranes is identified as a priority. However, concrete solutions to achieve this transition are yet to be determined. This underscores the challenges faced by the sector in aligning with the principles of a sustainable Blue Economy, which emphasizes environmentally friendly practices and responsible resource management.
In conclusion, the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh is currently grappling with issues related to environmental compliance, delays in obtaining necessary permissions, and the broader debate on sustainable practices. The plea for reclassification by the BSBRA, coupled with the ongoing calls for transitioning to sustainable facilities, reflects a growing recognition of the need for responsible and environmentally friendly practices in the shipbreaking sector. The identification and implementation of viable solutions for the safe and sustainable operation of the industry remain pivotal for its future in the context of a responsible Blue Economy.