Casualties in Shipbreaking Yard Calls For Stringent Safety Measures

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Inflammable, odourless gas that had leaked from a cylinder, led to serious blast when a worker lit up the fire.  All of the eight workers present there were injured.  Four workers namely Khokon, Moksedul, Alamin and Shajahan succumbed to their injuries and died in hospital.  While four others Nadim, Pasha, Abdur Rouf and Mannan are still in critical condition.  Contractors recruit poor, unskilled labourers at low cost who then fall prey to exploitation by yard owners.  This accident yet again highlights the poor working conditions and lack of safety measures in the ship-breaking Industry.

Background:

In the 1990s, Bangladesh ranked 2nd in the world in shipbreaking by tonnage scrapped.  52 % of all large ships are scrapped in Bangladesh.  About 2 MTs of large oil tankers, cargo and passenger vessels are dismantled every year in Bangladesh.

The Supreme Court has already issued a directive to the ruling governments to come up with a set of rules to govern the Ship-Breaking Industry regarding safe working conditions as well as from polluting the environment.

Current situation:

This accident that happened on 5 September 2015 at the Shital Ship Breaking Yard, established in the year 2011, is apparently a result of lack of action and implementation of the rules.  This is more or less the same state of affairs seen at almost all the 40 ship-breaking yards run by about 165 odd companies operating in the 25km stretch of Sitakunda Upazila in Chittagong.

In this specific accident, the local NGOs and their member organisations of shipbreaking platform, trade unions of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, the Ship Breaking Workers Trade Union Forum and Platform member organization BILS had to intervene with the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association (BSBA) to ensure that the victims got proper medical care and compensation.

Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform is quoted to have commented “It is irresponsible of ship owners to continue to ignore what is happening in Bangladesh and to perpetuate a situation of exploitation and unsafe working conditions by choosing these yards to maximize their profits instead of demanding responsible ship recycling yards”.

Muhammed Ali Shahin, coordinator of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform in Bangladesh is quoted to have opined “This terrible accident and the deaths of the workers are painful reminders of the dangerous working conditions that are prevalent in the shipbreaking yards of Bangladesh, Continued lack of proper procedures, adequate infrastructure and equipment and sufficient training are the root causes of such deadly accidents.  We demand that all yard owners and the relevant authorities push for drastic change and ensure a safe and sound working environment in the yards.  The yard management must be held responsible.”

An accident report information gathered by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform shows work-related fatalities were 12 and 17 cases of severe injury. Last year, there were 17 deaths and 34 critical injuries reported.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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