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Two Killed at Pakistani Breakers as HK Convention Promises Improvements

Bulker beached for recycling
Two people were killed working on the bulker which beached in Pakistan in December (NGO Shipbreaking)

Published Jan 25, 2024 7:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

The death of two workers at a Pakistan shipbreaking yard last week is again being used as an opportunity to call attention to the need to enforce safety at the yards and reforms for the industry. The deaths come less than two months after Pakistan, a long-term holdout, finally accepted the Hong Kong Convention which calls for stricter safety standards in shipbreaking.

The NGO Shipbreaking Platform which has long advocated for improved safety reported the tragic accident at the Dewan Shipbreaking PVT lot in Gadani Pakistan. They are reporting that two workers were crushed by a heavy iron plate on January 16 during the dismantling operation on the bulk carrier Catherine Bright. The 77,800 dwt vessel built in 1998 had last been registered in Panama. It was sold to the intermediary Oman-based Maritime International Transport & Trading and arrived in Pakistan at the beginning of December.

Pakistan’s National Trade Union Federation the NGO reports has long raised concerns about the administration of the industry and government enforcement. The union is calling for an investigation of this latest accident. The union accuses authorities of negligence saying there continues to be a lack of compliance with occupational health and safety standards in the shipbreaking sector. According to the NTUF, the absence of safety measures at the Gadani beaching yards forces workers to carry out their duties under extremely dangerous conditions, which knowingly puts their lives at risk.

"For over two decades, we've persistently urged South Asian authorities to relocate the shipbreaking industry to designated areas with better facilities, ensuring worker safety and preventing pollution. Ignoring this urgent need risks more tragic loss of life. It's time authorities recognize that the profits gained by yard owners and shipping companies are made at the expense of both humans and coastal environments,” said Sara Rita da Costa, Project Officer for NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

Pakistan became the last nation to officially adopt the Hong Kong Convention in December 2023. They followed Bangladesh which formally adopted the rules governing ship recycling in June 2023, after Turkey and India. This means that all the major countries which have recycling operations, representing 95 percent of the tonnage sent for scrap, have adopted the convention which officially goes into force in late June 2025, 16 years after it was first presented.

The convention is designed to ensure greater safety in the process as well as attention to the environmental concerns. It places a greater responsibility on the ship owner and even the builder as well as the ship recycling facilities, flag States, port States, and recycling States, according to the IMO. Governments will be required to ensure that recycling facilities under their jurisdiction comply with the requirements of the convention, which includes a specific plan for each ship. 

It also requires safety standards and ships to carry on board an inventory of hazardous materials. The trade group BIMCO calculated that around 23,000 ships will need between 2025 and 2030 to develop an inventory. They reported that approximately 30,000 ships already have an inventory of hazardous materials in place.

The deaths last week again highlight the dangerous nature of the operations. However, industry leaders hailed the move to begin enforcing the convention in hopes that it will continue to improve the standards global for the shipbreaking business.