Two dead in Bangladesh ship breaking accident

Ship breaking labourers carying parts of ship at Sitakunda ship breaking yard, Chittagong. Credit: Yousuf Tushar/LightRocket via Getty Images

Two workers have died and 13 others were injured as the result of a heavy cable collapsing and hitting workers at Bangladesh’s Ziri Subedar ship breaking yard on 31 August.

The injured workers were rushed to Chittagong Medical College Hospital where Aminul Islam (35) and Tushar Chakma (27) were pronounced dead. Following the accident, local authorities have ordered a temporary closure of the yard.

These deaths bring the death toll in Bangladesh ship breaking yards to 15 in 2019. This follows from 19 deaths and at least 10 workers with severe injuries documented in 2018 by NGO Shipbreaking Platform in Sitakund yards.

Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), said, “It’s sad that our regulatory authorities had to wait for deaths of seven workers and grievous injuries of 15 in a row of seven incidences in this yard alone since 2011.” Ziri Subedar is among the unsafe ship breaking yards of Bangladesh that are known to be operating without adequate safety measures in place, in breach of the Bangladeshi Supreme Court’s ruling in 2009.

“I wonder how long it will take for the West to act on these deaths and stop sending vessels to the unsafe yards of Bangladesh,” Hasan asked.

The container ship in question, CSL Virginia, was owned and managed by Andreas Hadjiyiannis’ Cyprus Sea Lines. Following a collision with a Tunisian ferry off Corsica in 2018, resulting in its fuel tanks being breached, the vessel left French territorial waters under claims that it would be repaired in Constanța, Romania. However, it was taken to a Turkish shipyard to be renamed Virgin Star and had its registry changed to Liberia before being beached in 2019 at Village Baro Aulia Fultola in Bangladesh. It passed the Suez Canal on 25 December 2018, just days before the entry-into-force of the EU Ship Recycling Regulation.

Ship breaking activists such as NGO Shipbreaking Platform have long decried the practice of vessel owners and managers from the West evading EU recycling regulations by using flags of convenience or cash buyers to send vessels to ship breaking yards in Chittagong (Bangladesh), Gujarat (India), and Gadani (Pakistan) where human rights violations and environmental degradation is rife. As these yards look to increase their output or operate in violation of legal orders, these conditions continue to be exacerbated and further incidents and deaths are likely.