Worker Killed in Bangladeshi Shipbreaking Yard

Chittagong, Bangladesh (2014 file image courtesy NGO Shipbreaking Platform)

By MarEx 2016-12-12 21:48:52

The ship recycling watchdog NGO Shipbreaking Platform reported Monday that a Bangladeshi worker was killed during the demolition of the German container ship Viktoria Wulff. 

The worker, Shah Jahan, was reportedly struck in the head by an iron pipe and died at the scene. 

NGO Shipbreaking Platform said the yard had reached a settlement with Jahan's family and will pay them a monthly stipend to help cover their expenses.

The Wulff was sold to a Bangladeshi shipbreaking yard as part of the liquidation of her previous owner, a German firm that went bankrupt in August. 

At the time of her sale, she was the youngest container ship ever sold for demolition. 

NGO Shipbreaking platform said that Jahan was not the only South Asian worker recently killed while demolishing the vessels of failed German shipowning firms. In 2015, the former Konig & Cie vessel King Justus was being broken on the beaches at Alang, and a worker died during her demolition. 

Demolition activity has been high throughout 2016 due to low day rates and overcapacity in the bulk and container ship markets. South Asian beaching yards have low overhead and can generally pay shipowners higher prices for vessels' scrap value. 

However, the South Asian yards face widespread criticism for alleged exploitation of migrant labor, and especially for the yards' allegedly unsafe working conditions.

Just last month, an explosion and fire on a beached FPSO at Gadani, Pakistan killed at least 25 workers and injured 60 more. Pakistani unions suggest that the number of fatalities from the Gadani blast may be much higher, and the exact count may never be known. Ship recycling work at Gadani has recently resumed.

“In 2016, at least 19 shipbreaking workers were killed and another 11 severely injured in the Bangladesh yards [alone]. The accident rate remains shockingly high and is not coming down, despite the promises of the yard owners and cash buyers," said Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “The shipbreaking yards have to be moved away from the muddy beaches to clean and safe ship recycling facilities using quays and docks where cranes can be operated to safely move cut steel sections. Otherwise, the death count of beaching will not come to a halt."

Heidegger asserted that shipowners bear a measure of responsibility for the working conditions and environmental impact associated with their vessels' end-of-life management. Her organization has long advocated for the use of non-beaching yards for recycling obsolete vessels.