Shipbreaking in Asia Called Inhuman

Countries sending old ships for scrapping to India and other developing countries in Asia are condoning a system that claims thousands of workers' lives each year, claims Greenpeace and the International Federation of Human Rights League (FIDH).

Accidents, explosions, and contamination from hazardous materials plague workers in many shipbreaking yards, according to a report issued in Paris by Greenpeace and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH).

'It's the law of the jungle since the labor conditions offer workers no protection, no training nor supervision,' charged Antoine Bernard, Executive Director of the FIDH.

Greenpeace activists have been protesting to prevent an asbestos-riddled, decommissioned French aircraft carrier from being shipped from southern France to India for scrapping.

Almost half of the world's ships end up in India - which has the world's biggest shipbreaking yard at Alang in the north-western state of Gujarat - for dismantling after their sailing lives are over, according to Greenpeace.

'In the Alang shipyard in India, with an estimated 40,000 workers, the ratio is one ship, one death,' charged Ramapati Kumar of Greenpeace India. The workers, without education or qualification, travel hundreds of kilometers from some of the poorest regions of the country to work in the shipyards.

'In a single village, I counted as many as 22 widows, whose husbands had been killed in shipbreaking yards - without counting crippling injuries and disease,' he continued.

Despite a lack of official statistics, Greenpeace and the FIDH estimate that several thousand people die in accidents in shipbreaking yards each year, without counting deaths due to long-term contamination.

The FIDH slammed the system as 'a form of contemporary human sacrifice', condoned by the states that send their ships to Asian graveyards.

The Greenpeace protest coincided with a meeting of a World Maritime Organization (WTO) working group in Basel, Switzerland on the transport of dangerous waste and a WTO meeting in Geneva.