Dubbed “one of the world’s most dangerous jobs,” ship-breaking again lives up to this devastating reputation with four recent deaths in Bangladesh.
Shipbreaking Industry. Ship-breaking is an essential part of the life of a vessel. Cargo ships with lifespans of about 30 years, for example, may eventually be unprofitable due to rising costs of operations, maintenance and insurance. But there is still value in their bodies; steel that can eventually be used for construction, and salvageable items that can be resold, such as valuable liquids like fuel, oil and other chemicals; machinery like engines and generators; batteries; copper wiring; lifeboats; fittings; even bridge dials and portholes. This is where ship-breakers come in.
A Dangerous Job. Unfortunately, ship-breaking has been called “one of the world’s most dangerous jobs” for good reason – there’s possible exposure to toxic materials and, in the developing countries where massive ships ultimately meet their end, there is limited oversight and protection for laborers who face hazardous and potentially fatal work conditions daily. There is also environmental contamination, presenting a danger not just to those who work on the vessels directly, but also to the rest of the country.
Bangladesh. The nations that see the most ship recycling activities are Bangladesh, India, China, Pakistan and Turkey. Bangladesh, which saw the most in ships’ deadweight tonnage from 2003 to 2013 and is currently said to handle 52% of large ships for scrapping, has an unfortunate safety record. A report released in 2005 had claimed that over 1,000 people died in in Bangladesh’s ship-breaking yards in the previous 20 years. Last year alone, it has been estimated that 17 workers died and at least 37 others were injured.
Accident in Chittagong. Just this September, at a ship-breaking yard in Chittagong, a gas cylinder exploded, injuring eight and ultimately leaving four of them, dead. The other four are still in critical condition. Investigators point to a leak in the cylinder filling the room with gas, which ultimately exploded when the workers lit a fire to illuminate the space. The yard’s administrative officer had offered an alternative cause, stating the men had disregarded safety procedures and had lit a cigarette. The case is currently under further investigation. Non-government organizations have been active in advocating on behalf of the men and their families for hospital treatment and compensation, and in looking to the future for all other workers to have better treatment, infrastructure, equipment and oversight to create a safer working environment.
We at Kemplon Engineering offer our sympathies to the injured workers, and to those who have lost friends and loved ones in this tragic accident as well as to those that came before it. May positive industry changes lead to more safety for workers in the soonest possible time.
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“Explosion Kills Four at Shipbreaking Yard.” The Maritime Executive, 14 Sep 2015. Web. 19 Sep 2015. http://maritime-executive.com/article/explosion-kills-four-at-shipbreaking-yard
Gwin, Peter. “The ship-Breakers.” National Geographic, May 2014. Web. 19 Sep 2015. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/05/shipbreakers/gwin-text
Mahmud, Tarek. “Eight critically injured in ship yard explosion.” Dhaka Tribune, 06 Sep 2015. Web. 19 Sep 2015. http://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2015/sep/06/eight-critically-injured-ship-yard-explosion