Although there has been a decrease in the number of accidents in shipbreaking yards of Chittagong up to September, now the accident rate for the three first quarters of 2017 has surged with 8 injuries and 6 deaths recorded in ten separate incidents in the last two months alone, according to NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
“The working conditions in all the Chittagong shipbreaking yards are deplorable. Claims that the situation in the yards has somewhat improved are misleading: workers are still exposed to enormous risks and are killed because of the lack of basic safety procedures and infrastructure”, says Muhammed Ali Shahin, local contact of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
On 23 October, a cutter man died struck by a cable at Arafin Enterprise and another worker died while working on an oil section of the Indonesian-owned tanker ECHO, beached at Ferdous Steel shipbreaking yard with one worker also injured in this accident.
Another worker lost his life on 14 November, falling from the ship LABRI, after a fire broke out on the upper deck, at Fahim Enterprise shipbreaking yard.
According to the Platform, four more workers, who are now supposedly receiving treatment in the BSBA Hospital, suffered injuries due to a fire at Tania Enterprise shipbreaking yard.
Moreover, during a nightshift on 4 December at the SN Corporation yard, a worker suffocated from inhaling toxic gases and then fell, dying on the spot.
In October, two major accidents also occurred in the steel re-rolling mills that are connected to the shipbreaking yards and where the steel from the ships are re-rolled into steel bars. According to the Bangladesh Insitute of Labour Studies (BILS), on 10 October, 4 workers died in GPH Ispat, and less than a week later an accident at SARM re-rolling mill killed 1 worker and injured as many as 9.
Ship owners that sell their ships for dirty and dangerous breaking are now also being brought to court, the Platform further informed. According to The Guardian, Mohamed Edris, who worked at Ferdous Steel, was severely injured in 2015 while cutting the EURUS LONDON, owned by Zodiac Maritime, and is now seeking compensation in the UK courts from the shipping company. It is the first time that an injured worker demands compensation from a ship owner directly.
“Zodiac Maritime took the commercial decision to recklessly sell the EURUS LONDON to a beaching yard…This case could set a precedent for other workers who want to bring the ultimate profit-makers of dangerous and polluting practices to justice,” suggested NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
So far this year, 51 out of the total 152 ships that have been beached in Chittagong are owned by European companies.