A recent surge of fatal accidents at shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh has labor and human rights groups calling for measures to enhance safety for workers and the end to the dangerous practice of ship beaching altogether.
The NGO Shipbreaking Platform reports that in the last month alone at least five workers have been killed and at least five others have suffered serious injuries in a series of accidents in Chittagong, Bangladesh, the epicenter of the country’s controversial shipbreaking industry.
“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.”
As a result of the accidents, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a coalition of 19 environmental, human rights and labour rights organizations, is calling on Government of Bangladesh to investigate the incidents and sanction yards with more regular fatal and severe accidents. The Platform is also demanding that European ship owners stop selling their end-of-life vessels to the beaching yards of Bangladesh.
“It is not acceptable to turn a blind eye on the precarious situation for the sake of maximum profit – European ship owners are fully aware of the dire conditions in Chittagong and more sustainable alternatives to the beaching method exist,” a statement from the NGO Shipbreaking Platform said.