Worker Killed Dismantling ‘Youngest Container Ship Sold for Scrap’

File photo: NGO Shipbreaking Platform
File photo: NGO Shipbreaking Platform

A worker at a shipbreaking yard in Bangladesh has died in accident while working to dismantle German containership Viktoria Wulff, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform has said.

The 35-year worker was killed December 4 after he was struck in the head by heavy piece of iron at the Arefin shipbreaking yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh, according to the NGO.

The Viktoria Wulff (ex MSC Firenze), a 4,546 teu panamax, made headlines in September when it became the youngest containership ever sold for scrap at just 10 years old. The vessel was sold after its German ship owner Wulff went bankrupt in August.

The Shipbreaking Platform said the accident is not the first fatal case that can be linked to bankruptcies of German shipowners. Last year a worker in Alang, India was killed when dismantling the King Justus, which was sold after the insolvency of König & Cie.

“The story of the ‘Viktoria Wulff’ is characteristic for the failed business practices of German KG ship owners as well as ship funds. Nearly 600 ships have been sold due to insolvencies and financial problems since 2008, many of which ended up on the South Asian beaches,”says Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “The bill for the ship owners’ and investors’ greed for profit is paid by workers and the environment in destinations like Bangladesh, where ships end up without any consideration of the human and environmental costs. It is a scandal that German liquidators, who are appointed by the courts, sell end-of-life ships to substandard breaking yards risking peoples’ lives through deals that are in clear breach of international and even domestic Bangladeshi law just to sort out the books for German ship owners”.

So far this year 83 end-of-life vessels have been sold to beaching yards in South Asia in 2016, mostly by German and Greek ship owners, the Shipbreaking Platform says.