Two workers lost their lives at the Chittagong shipbreaking yards in the last two weeks, bringing the total death toll this year to six workers, NGO Shipbreaking Platform reported. The NGO, as well as other organizations, inform on the danger associated with shipbreaking practices and call for restriction measures.
On 6 May, a 26-year-old worker died, falling from a great height when he was breaking the HANJIN ROME and, on 9 May, a winch operator was smashed by the wire cable and died on the spot at KR Steel.
“Shipping companies globally are aware of the dangerous and polluting practices on the breaking beaches in South Asia,” says Ingvild Jenssen, Founding Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform. “The higher profit that ship owners make by selling to cash buyers has a human cost and an environmental cost,” she adds.
Earlier this year the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights (IGLHR) published a detailed account of the fatal accidents that killed 19 workers in Chittagong in 2016. The report includes interviews with workers that describe harsh conditions, lack of protective equipment, exposure to toxic gases and fumes, and a constant fear of dying at work.
“There are enclosed dark places on the ship, where there is no ventilation. The cutters go in first [to cut holes in the sides to let light in]. Especially they get sick and nauseous,” a worker reports to IGLHR.
“All of us cutters get sick from the chemicals. It always happens,” other workers add.
NGO Shipbreaking Platform also informed that activists and workers in Bangladesh recently raised their voices on two important days for workers’ rights.
- On 28 April, the World Day for Health & Safety at Work, the Platform member Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment (OSHE) foundation organised a rally and a human chain, to raise awareness on the precarious conditions at the Chittagong shipbreaking yards.
- On 1 May, Chittagong-based Platform member Young Power in Social Action (YPSA) organised a human chain and a rally gathering more than 100 workers and their family members.
“Six workers have died this year. Many more workers have suffered serious injuries. Safety and workers’ rights are shamefully being ignored in most yards,” said Muhammed Ali Shahin from YPSA. “Whereas the Bangladesh Shipbreakers’ Association is reluctant to take any action on the yards where workers are dying, the Courts should act immediately to ensure that no yard is allowed to operate in breach of national laws on occupational safety and environmental protection,” he adds.