Fatalities rise in shipbreaking industry

Shipbreaking yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Credit: Christian Hager/DPA/PA Images.

Since the beginning of 2019, at least eight workers have died and 35 others have been injured in accidents relating to ship-breaking activities, according the global  federation for workers, IndustriALL.

The union blames the yard employers for these incidents citing negligence, as well as, lack of implementation of regulations and safety measures, poor inspections, and inadequate training in safe shipbreaking methods.

The accident data provided by IndustriALL provides a breakdown of the fatalities. In May, one worker died from electrocution, while another two were killed following a gas cylinder explosion. In February, two workers were killed when an oil tanker exploded, and a further three died in separate accidents in yards.

This data is from Bangladeshi ship-breaking yards alone. IndustriALL shipbreaking director Kan Matsuzaki commented, “The negligence of employers and government officials leads to frequent accidents and the Bangladesh Ship Recycling Act of 2018 needs to be strictly implemented.”

Matsuzaki is also calling for Bangladesh to ratify and implement the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. The convention is aimed at ensuring that ships carry an inventory of hazardous materials, and a Ship Recycling Plan, to ensure they will not pose a risk to human health, safety and the environment when being recycled.

The convention has one signatory state missing for the ratification. However, for the formal process to begin those signatories would need to represent 40% of world merchant shipping gross tonnage, they are still far from achieving this goal.