Surge of Fatal Accidents in Chittagong
At least five shipbreaking workers have been killed and five more severely injured in a series of accidents in Bangladesh, says NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
On May 23, 21-year old Rubel died as a result of a fall at Seiko Steel shipbreaking yard. The Platform asserts that he was working without safety equipment.
On May 29, five workers were struck by falling steel plates at the same yard which is also referred to as Darussalam or Madina Enterprise. One worker died on the spot, another in hospital. The three remaining workers suffered severe injuries.
On June 5, at Laskar Shipbreaking, 35-year old Babul was crushed by a falling steel plate.
On June 19, two workers were involved in a cylinder blast at Bhatiary Steel shipbreaking yard. One of the workers, Swapan, died in hospital three days later, while Mayching suffers from severe burn wounds in his face and upper body. He is struggling for his life.
On June 23, Samesh suffered severe injuries from a fall at Kabir Steel, a yard that made headlines in April after Kabir’s private security personnel allegedly shot at workers and locals protesting a fatal accident.
“This horrific series of accidents shows that occupational health and safety measures are absent”, says Muhammed Ali Shahin, the Platform’s local coordinator. “We are witnessing the same accidents again and again: workers are not equipped with safety harnesses and fall to their death. Others are crushed under heavy steel parts as a consequence of the dangerous gravity method by which cut steel sections are simply dropped into the sea and on the beach. Gas cylinders cannot be handled safely on the beach and explosions cause death and terrible burn wounds. As long as ships are scrapped on the beaches, workers will continue to die.”
The series of fatal accidents have sparked local resistance. On June 10, the Shipbreaking Workers Trade Union Forum together with the Bangladesh Institute for Labour Studies (BILS) organized a human chain in Sitakunda, the shipbreaking area, to protest the recent deaths. The Shipbreaking Workers Trade Union Forum also submitted a letter to the president of the Bangladesh Shipbreakers Association (BSBA) demanding proper investigation and the payment of compensation owed to the families of dead workers and those workers who suffered from injuries.
Recently, representatives of the IMO, which is implementing a NORAD-funded project in Bangladesh to improve conditions in the shipbreaking yards, presented their work on assessing the social and economic impacts of the industry in Chittagong. Bangladesh members of the Platform assisted the presentation and are concerned that human rights abuses and pollution caused by the shipbreaking industry will be side-lined in the NORAD-funded study.
“Figures on GDP contribution, tax income and the amount of scrap steel imported through shipbreaking have always been used to legitimize this industry in Bangladesh. What is urgently needed is an honest cost-benefit analysis bringing environmental and human costs of beaching into the equation”, says Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.