NGO Shipbreaking Platform Raises Bangladesh Concerns
The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has criticized the certification of a shipbreaking yard in Bangladesh and highlighted recent deaths in the country.
The Platform highlights that eight injuries and six deaths have been recorded in 10 separate incidents in the last two months, including: on 23 October, Jalal, who worked as a cutter man, died after being struck by a cable at Arafin Enterprise. Shipbreaking worker Khalil died while working on an oil section of the Indonesian-owned tanker beached at Ferdous Steel shipbreaking yard. Another worker was also injured in that accident. Mizan, employed by Fahim Enterprise shipbreaking yard, lost his life on November after falling when a fire broke out on the upper deck of a ship he was working on. On December 4, Mojammel suffocated after inhaling toxic gases. He was working at the SN Corporation yard.
“Claims that the situation in the yards has somewhat improved are misleading: workers are still exposed to enormous risks and are killed because of the lack of basic safety procedures and infrastructure,” says Muhammed Ali Shahin, local contact of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
A local newspaper in Chittagong further revealed that the body of a worker, Harun Rashid, was found lifeless in a pond close to the PHP shipbreaking yard. Harun was a permanent staff member of PHP and was working as cutter helper. According to the attendance register, he was present and on duty on the day he was found dead. Harun’s cause of death has not yet been cleared by the police, but PHP has paid a lump sum to Harun’s family, says the Platform.
In October, the PHP shipbreaking yard received a Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention from the classification society RINA. Trade unions in Bangladesh, as well as the Platform’s member Bangladesh Institute for Labour Studies, are concerned that it sets a dangerous precedent for the “green-washing” of beaching yards at Chittagong. “Workers and the environment are not protected as long as ships are broken on the beach and as long as fundamental labor rights and proper infrastructure are not secured,” said the Platform in a statement.
“It is shocking that a company that rejects legitimate trade union activities can be stamped as operating in line with international laws. The Hong Kong Convention clearly fails in setting standards that will protect workers,” says Nazim Uddin, local trade union leader and Bangladesh representative at IndustriALL.
The Hong Kong Convention’s ship recycling requirements stop at the gate of the yard, therefore the fact that Bangladesh still has no waste treatment facility for general waste, let alone for the toxic materials coming from ships, is completely overlooked by the Convention, says the Platform.
“That a beaching yard in Chittagong is able to comply with the Hong Kong Convention tells us a lot about the extremely low standard set by the IMO,” said Ingvild Jenssen, Director and Founder of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “Any ship owner looking for a safe and clean location for the recycling of their ship will be wise to disregard the very misleading Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention, and instead consult the upcoming E.U. List of approved ship recycling facilities”, she adds.
Over 45 yards in India have earned Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention. PHP is the first, and so far, the only one in Bangladesh.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.