25 February 2011

MARAD Celebrates Opening of 1st West Coast Ship Recycling Facility:

Facility to Boost Local Economy with the Creation of New Jobs

U.S. Maritime Administrator David Matsuda today joined California state and local officials in a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opening the first ship recycling facility on the West Coast. At its peak, Allied Defense Recycling (ADR) expects to bring more than 100 jobs to the Vallejo area.

“The Obama Administration is making good on its commitment to clean up the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This targeted transportation investment will bolster our efforts to remove obsolete ships while creating jobs, improving the local economy and protecting the environment.”

Prior to the creation of the new facility, obsolete ships were cleaned before removal from the Bay Area and then towed 5,000 miles through the Panama Canal to MARAD-approved recycling facilities located along the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic coast. Allied Defense Recycling, using the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard, will both remove marine growth on their dry dock and recycle the ships, which will generally result in decreased recycling costs and reduced delays associated with the process of cleaning and recycling ships in separate facilities.

“A West Coast recycling facility just makes sense,” said Maritime Administrator Matsuda. “It’s efficient, increases competition and creates jobs. ADR will help MARAD meet its mission while helping to revitalize the local economy.”

Most of the Mare Island complex has been shut down since the United States Navy left in 1996. In 2009, ADR received approval to open a ship dismantling and repair service on the site. Since receiving the contracts from MARAD, the company has hired 50 people, many of which are former base employees.

The Maritime Administration promotes the development and maintenance of an adequate, well-balanced United States merchant marine fleet, sufficient to carry the Nation's domestic waterborne commerce and a substantial portion of its waterborne foreign commerce, and capable of service as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency. The Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet is one of three anchorages maintained by the Maritime Administration for national defense and national emergency purposes. For additional information about the Maritime Administration, visit www.marad.dot.gov.

Source: The Maritime Executive Monday, Press Release. February 21st, 2011

Scrap ship cleaning a must, all agree:

In a major development, the High Court and both sides of a case on shipbreaking yard agreed that all ships, which were brought for dismantling, must be cleaned before scrapping in order to protect environment as well as human lives from its toxic effects. The HC directed the Ship Breakers Association to submit an affidavit before it within February 27 on whether there was sufficient (human and logistical) capacity to pre-cleaning the ships in the country without risking human health in any way.

The HC directed the association to prepare the affidavit after collecting the opinions from expert regarding this matter.

The HC bench comprising Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury and Justice Sheikh Md Zakir Hossain passed the verbal order during the hearing on a petition filed by ShipBreakers Association to recall its earlier order that directed not to bring any ship in the territory of Bangladesh for scrapping without having environmental and toxic waste-free certificates. The HC directed Advocate Anisul Haque, counsel for the ShipBreakers Association, to take back their petition form the Appellate Division, which filed against the HC order earlier.  The HC cautioned against polluting the Sea in any way and not to engage affecting women and children for the shipbreaking.

Waste oil drained from scrap ship in Chittagong ShipBreaking yard
Photo source: Dr. Tridib Ghose
Earlier on December 15, the same HC bench passed the order following a writ petition of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA). Advocate Fida M Kamal, Dr Syeda Rezwana Hasan and Advocate Iqbal Kabir Liton appeared for BELA.

During the hearing, Syeda Rezwana Hasan, counsel for the BELA told the court that pre-cleaning of the ships is done to remove hazards against environment as well as human lives; the pre-cleaning is essential and legal condition as per both national and international laws.

Pointing to lower price of ships' rods (About Tk 600 in comparison of other rods), she said, "The price is lower only when value of human lives was not considered in determining it."

The court set February 27 for next hearing on the matter.

GMS weekly report on shipbreaking industry for WEEK 8 of 2011:

Disappointment, for those expecting a Bangladesh reopening this week as the High Court declared, yet again, a postponement in proceedings for the case to be heard now on February 27th 2011.

Such delaying tactics have become customary for those authorities almost reluctant to make a firm decision and face the wrath of either side. What is clear now, since the PM of Bangladesh became involved last week, is that some sort of decisive action needs to be taken imminently for the market to reopen (as it has been declared a vital one for the well being of the economy). However, that local standards have to improve is a given (especially in light of the accident last month that has rocked the industry), but all parties concerned are working towards a positive resolution that would hope to favor all sides.

The buying continues unabated though in those global markets able to take vessels, as China continues to snare the capes (and bid on those big ones on the market including two from Hyundai and Vale). India and Pakistan, having lost the hunger due to a huge oversupply in vessels over the past two months, remain open to take desired units (including several juicy tankers sold this week). Finally, Turkey registered on the buying front this week as the small LDT vessel TWIN (1,209 LDT) manage to fetch levels of USD 292/LT LDT off the back of the recently committed HMS INVINCIBLE.

However for most other vessels (including general cargo, reefers and bulkers), unless an attractive lower price is able to secure the unit, most buyers are content to either wait and watch for potential further market falls, or not show their hand at all, choosing to ignore most of the vessels put in front of them.

With several large units still working going into the new week then, and as Bangladesh speculation pushed prices up towards the end of last week, it will be interesting to see where Monday leaves those offers, and with what sort of aggression cash buyers will be pursuing tonnage given the continued state of flux the industry finds itself in.

Source: SteelGuru (Sourced from GMS Weekly). Tuesday, 22 Feb 2011

GMS weekly report on Pakistan ship breaking industry for WEEK 8 of 2011:

With fewer of their preferred candidates on the market, Pakistani buyers are having to turn their attentions to dry bulk and have secured several units in recent times to this effect.

Even when presented with the chance to buy those rare tankers available, Pakistani buyers perhaps underestimated the abilities of their Indian competitors given the current state of the market there and have as a result missed out on three prime vessels in the past few weeks.

The bulker BRIGHT STAR was one sale to register from the same owners as the recently committed and beached SEASTAR as owners looked to take advantage of the slightly firmer levels in comparison with India.

However, as Bangladesh continues to remain closed and China keeps up their recent resurgence buyers may be expected to step up on the levels and the offering in order to secure their share and take the pressure off the heavily burdened Indian market.

Source: SteelGuru (Sourced from GMS Weekly). Tuesday, 22 Feb 2011

Mare Island ship dismantling: Nothing easy about this job

After getting all the permits and communicating with at least 13 different oversight agencies, it might seem that doing the actual work that California Dry Dock Solutions contracted to do could turn out to be the easy part. Of course, that's all simply said. In truth, there is nothing simple about dismantling ships in a compliant manner.
Mare Island ship dismantling
Photo: California Dry Dock Solutions
But to hear Jay Anast, CEO of California Dry Dock Solutions, the company that is currently dismantling the SS Solon Turman, describe the project, it's pretty much all in a day's (make that months') work. His longer-term mission is to make his two current Mare Island ship dismantling projects so successful that they will pave the way for a Mare Island shipyard renaissance. "We would be looking at a full-service shipyard," he says, "where ships could be repaired, converted, overhauled, dismantled." And yes, newly built too.

Ship dismantling: New construction in reverse

The process of dismantling a ship mimics new construction, just in reverse, Anast says. "We plan the project and remediate hazards. Then heavy industrial methods are used to deconstruct the ship. Lastly the ship remnants are manifested to disposal or recycling."

Hazards of a different sort:

Once word got out that California Dry Dock Solutions had secured the MARAD contract, Anast had a new challenge on his hands. "We mentioned to the press that the Operating Engineers Union was handling most of the hiring. They were absolutely inundated with thousands of applications." While the show of interest is understandable, Anast is concerned about the expectations gap. "In truth, for a ship dismantling job, we only need about fifty headcount," he explains.

And not all at once. The labor will be staged, timed with the different phases of ship dismantling. "Initially we need mechanics, crane operators and riggers. We also need divers for underwater work." he says.

Leveraging former Mare Island experience:

Anast says that one of the greatest benefits of this contract is the opportunity to hire past Mare Island Shipyard professionals. "The bulk of our staff are former Navy personnel who used to work on the Island. They have very unique skills that we can leverage for this project. We are really excited to have them onboard. And are looking to the day Mare Island once again has a fully functional marine drydock. The ripple effect to this region will be huge."

Source: By Patricia Kutza. February 22nd, 2011.  

Making Bangladesh shipbreaking environment-friendly:

The government has recently declared shipbreaking as an industry. The sector has also been placed under the Ministry of Industries. The new government initiative is, no doubt, laudable. But the point here is that the authorities concerned need to be extra cautious on the protection of nature and environment of the surrounding areas where the industry is located.

The Prime Minister, while declaring the sector as an industry, said that all rules, regulations and conventions have to be properly maintained in conducting ship breaking activities under the new industry. She also directed the authorities concerned to bring the ship breaking yards under a disciplined and well organised system. She said ship breaking industry here and there causes serious threats to environment as well as lands of the country.

It is expected that the decision of the government would open up new opportunity for a considerable number of people to get employment. Placing of shipbreaking industry under the Ministry of Industries will also ensure discipline in its allout activities while the surrounding inhabitants, local environment and the workers and employees will be immensely benefited through it. The government expects that the decision would also reduce the market price of the essential materials of the construction sector like rod, iron and steel.

The shipbreakers said the decision has come at a very right time, otherwise the unstable and unpredictable situation would have given birth to a lengthy negative chain impact on the total sector only to add to sufferings of the people dependent on it. They said that the national economy will be hard hit through inter-linked chain reaction if the ship breaking and recycling industry is abandoned or reduced on the plea of the environmental hazards.

Indeed, the shipbreaking and recycling are expected to meet up internal needs of iron goods, help flourish ship building industry, boost employment generation, infrastructure development through booming of re-rolling mills, small, cottage and other allied industries. The shipbreaking industry took off in Bangladesh a few decades back and has emerged as the second largest employment generating sector next to the RMG only. But the unprecedented stalemate was negatively affecting this booming sector pushing at risk some 500 re-rolling mills, 50 private sector owned steel mills and thousands of small scale backward linkage industries.

Group of workers carrying heavy steel plates at a ShipBreaking yard in Chittagong.
Photo source: Dr. Tridib Ghose (July 2010)
In the absence of a clear-cut policy, more hazardous shipbreaking yards have registered a mushroom growth in Chittagong earlier, increasing the threat to life and environment of the surrounding areas. Putting the court order in legal tangles, the shipbreaking yard owners were continuing their activities.

Although more yards are being set up, the government is yet to take any move to ensure workers' safety or protect the environment. It rather let local influential people to build new shipbreaking yards destroying the "para forest". The Department of Environment (DoE) reported that the number of the yards had shot up to 70 now which were only 36 in 2008.

It was witnessed that almost all the country's shipbreaking yards are flouting the law, endangering the labourers' lives and degrading the environment. Death of ill-fated workers due to inhalation of poisonous gas, fire and falling metal scrap is common in such yards. The Labour Law of 2006 is being blatantly violated in the yards. The labourers work without any safety gear and handle toxic substances with their bare hands. They neither have any job contract nor health insurance.

It is true that shipbreaking helps the country's economy, yet at the same time, needless and callous endangering of the labourers' lives and pollution of the environment cannot be allowed. Industries Minister Dilip Barua recently asked the ship breakers to beach scrap ships after getting them fully free of gas and other hazards. He said ship breaking is a thriving sector which can be termed a 'gold mine' and that nobody should undermine its potentials.

Sitakundu in Chittagong is now the world's largest shipbreaking destination as Bangladeshi importers have beaten their competitors in India and Pakistan to buy the highest number of scrap vessels sold in the international market. The country's shipbreakers offer at least 20-25 per cent more price than their competitors in India and Pakistan, making the Bangladesh the preferred choice for the 'burial ground' of a large and medium sized ships. The country cuts ships that generate 12,000-20,000 tonnes of scarps per vessel, Indians and Pakistanis only target the small vessels that can generate on 4000-5000 tonnes per vessel.

The old ships are the main source of construction steel in the country. The ships are dismantled in huge slabs of steel and then these are melted in the re-rolling mills to become 40-grade mild steel (MS) rod. Some 80 per cent of the country's annual rod demand is met from scrap ships. The ship breaking business grew tremendously in recent time as the demand for the steel rose sharply amid recovery in the construction industry.

There is no denying that shipbreaking is a very profitable venture. The yard owners should, therefore, spend some additional money for workers safety, training and welfare under their own institutional care. And there is no need to scrap as much as one hundred poisonous ships per year. By an elimination process only the least hazardous ships should be allowed to enter the country. If such process is taken up, the number of workers will automatically come down. If yards are fewer the operation will go on through the year and regular workers will not face any temporary joblessness. Any way, a tough but an environment-friendly policy should be framed to give the ship breaking industry a better look.

The shipbreakers view the campaign against them as an international conspiracy to harm the prospective shipbreaking industry of Bangladesh. As shipbreaking is becoming an emerging economically viable sector here, some European countries are allegedly conspiring to destroy it, they added. If the country prospers in shipbreaking, the Europeans will not be required to send scraps here any more.

Criticising the shipbreakers for their dubious role in sea and environment pollution, environmentalists urged the government not to succumb to pressure from the breakers. They said no ship breaking yard in Chittagong has any environmental clearance to operate and they discharge different toxic elements into the seas and cause damage to marine life.

The safety of the workers and pollution-free atmosphere are of utmost importance in the context of Bangladesh. Yet it is also important to keep the shipbreaking industry of Bangladesh alive. If this industry closes for any reason, it could cause the collapse of other industries that depend on it. The campaign to protect the environment and lives of workers is certainty commendable. But it will also be irrational to ignore the economic value of an industry, only on consideration of some factors that are beyond its control.

Source: The Financial Express. By Shahiduzzaman Khan. (szkhan@dhaka.net). Wednesday February 23 2011

23 February 2011

Recognising Bangladesh Shipbreaking as an Industry:

It is needless to say that the health hazards and environmental degradation, out of shipbreaking units far, far outweigh the miniscule contribution made by the elite class owners of such units to the economy of the country. Such units generate only hazardous employment opportunities for the desperate and disillusioned bottom scum of the society. Information on facts and figures of such units is not easily available; these are mostly invisible!

Prior to declaring shipbreaking as an industry and placing it under the ministry of industries, the number of these units showing up in the country's statistical books and publications, should be clearly ascertained. The claims about the so-called rise in industrial output, labour employment and income earning; can be verified. Otherwise, a clear and sound direction on safe disposal of hazardous waste as a safety health measure for all, will be missing.

All industrial units generate waste. Shipbreaking units probably top the list in health hazard waste by products, injurious chemicals, which are dumped into the sea, mainly along Faujdarhat beach. This is like putting the dangerous waste out of sight of the owners of shipbreaking units and making this hazard a huge threat to the country's tourism development and holiday spot seekers.

Hazardous waste management units should be declared mandatory for all industrial units. All wastes are injurious health, and wastes from shipbreaking probably are the most. The detailed cost, operation and monitoring system etc., need to be there, before setting up of any such unit.

Dumping of chemical and other wastes along the sea beach must be banned. Rules and regulations should cover heavy penalty for dumping wastes. An awareness campaign on health hazards from industrial waste in the port area, the branches of banks and eateries would benefit visitors.

So before the shipbreaking units start working in full vigour, there should be a review of the expected benefit and it should be compared with the environmental risks and hazards, to be caused by them. For, the country's environment is our great national resource.

Source: The Financial Express. Letter to the Editor. By Farida Sheikh (farida_s9@optimaxbd.net).  23 February 2011

22 February 2011

Shipbreaking industry: Safety must come first

The High court has reasserted the need for safety-first in the ship breaking yards. We are constrained to say that profit motive alone has come to dominate actions of certain entrepreneurs to such an extent that the attendant deleterious effects of ship breaking have been totally overlooked. The HC's activism is welcome.

While no one will disagree that the ship breaking sector in Bangladesh, which has been identified as an 'industry' by the government very recently, has had tremendous positive impact on the country's economy given its lateral linkages, regrettably, it had been expanding uncontrollably and without fulfilling its obligation towards its workers and towards the environment on which the unbridled growth has had severe damaging impact.

It is unfortunate that some interested quarters have misrepresented the real situation and instead tried to project the efforts of those that have been pressing for workers' safety and environmental protection as being driven by ulterior motives and being anti development.

We are happy to note that the High Court (HC) has stuck to its position, and has allowed import of ships for dismantling on a temporary basis, pending framing of rules by the government on the matter, conditionally. In response to the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association petition to withdraw its 19th January suo moto rule to stop ship breaking till further orders, the HC has allowed temporary import of ships for scrapping provided the safety of the workers were ensured, modern technologies were used in ship breaking and that the wastes were disposed off in a manner that did not harm the environment. It has embargoed the entry of uncleaned oil tankers and nuclear and passenger ships that contain toxic materials.

Not withstanding the potentials, no industry, least of all ship breaking, can afford to flout safety requirements. And in this regard the government must formulate the rules, as directed by the HC and keeping its directives in mind, within the three months allowed by the HC.

Source: The Daily Star. Tuesday, February 22, 2011

21 February 2011

Presentation - Poverty, Power and Potential: Social Implications of Shipbreaking in Bangladesh

A Brief Introduction to Shipbreaking

• Shipbreaking is the process of breaking up end-of-life ships for scrap
• Until about 25 years ago it mostly took place in developed countries but increased regulation and rising costs associated with its implementation have resulted in the industry being exported to developing countries
• About 600 – 700 large vessels are sent to Asia annually for scrapping
• The industry is associated with controversy and contradictions

Introduction to the Research:

Aim: To explore the dynamics in the industry and their (positive and negative) social implications for different groups

Why Bangladesh?
• Share in global market increased from 13% in 2003, to 40% in 2004 and possibly up to 80% in 2007
• Lowest standards and large numbers of people affected
• Demand for shipbreaking services is likely to increase
• Very limited research base so little is known about the social implications

Shipbreaking and Development in Bangladesh:

Bangladesh is one of the world’s poorest nations (Between 1990 and 2004 an estimated 36% of the population lived on less than $1 a day and 82.8% on less than $2 a day)
• Chronic poverty and unemployment in rural areas is resulting in migration of young males with minimal or no formal education to urban areas
• Shipbreaking provides employment for 20,000 -100,000 directly and 400,000 - 500,000 indirectly
• Shipbreaking satisfies 80% of Bangladesh’s demand for steel, conserving natural resources, promoting reuse and recycling and generating revenue and investment capital.

Some key areas explored:

• Issues around migration and relationships
• Working and living conditions of shipbreaking yard workers
• Health and safety and wellbeing
• Social implications of environmental changes attributed to shipbreaking
• Implications for different sub-groups,

Research Methods and Challenges:

Research Methods:
Literature review, in-depth semi-structured interviews, interviews with key informants, focus groups, informal conversations, participant observation, and photo exercise.

Language and communication, time constraints and limited local knowledge, sensitivities and access, control of interview/focus group environment, availability and reliability of data, positionality.

Migration and its Social Implications:

• 67% to 95% of workers are migrants
• Implications for the migrant, the host community and place of origin
• Migration can improve economic circumstances but can be associated with physical and social insecurity, discrimination, poor living and working conditions, feelings of alienation, etc.

Social Impacts of Migration in the Shipbreaking Area (Include increased rental, business and employment opportunities, wealth creation for some, distorted sex ratio, increased pressure on resources)
Social Impacts of Migration in the Rural Areas (Include unemployment relief, remittances, freeing land up for tenancy, increased financial security and poverty reduction, changes in social structure)
Differences within the worker population (origin, roles, hierarchies, etc)
Relationships between workers and local residents

Working and Living Conditions
• Earn Tk. 70 (50p) to Tk. 144 (£1.04) for an 8-hour day
• Average 10-12 hour shifts, 7 days a week, with a half day on Fridays
• Paid on hourly basis, ‘no work, no pay’, late payment in some yards
• No contracts, job security or union support (plus claims of non-registration and use of false names on registers to avoid potential compensation responsibilities)
• Polluted work environment, hard physical labour and risk
• Lack of drinking water and latrines in some yards
• Very basic living conditions

Hazards in Shipbreaking:

Hazardous Substances and Wastes (asbestos, dioxins, heavy metals, PCBs, chromates, etc)
Physical Hazards (noise, vibration, radiation, extreme temperature, etc)
Mechanical Hazards (structural failure in ships, power-driven tools, etc)
Biological Hazards (raw sewage, risk of communicable diseases, etc)
Ergonomic and Psychosocial Hazards (excessive workload, repetitive strain injuries, stress, etc)
General Concerns and Frequent Causes of Accidents (explosions, falling objects, poor illumination, lack of protective equipment, lack of inspection, lack of training, inadequate emergency services, poor worker organization, inadequate housing, sanitation and amenities, etc)

Health Problems among Shipyard Workers:

A 2004 survey of 216 workers concluded that 88% had experienced accidents and that 94% suffered from health problems, especially musculoskeletal disorders (87%), gastrointestinal tract disorders (81%), eye problems (72%), skin diseases (56%) and respiratory tract diseases (52%) (Roy, 2004).

During my research the following were also commonly reported:
Loss of appetite and weight loss, headaches and nausea after work.

• Nutritional status: Poor to average
• Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and other STIs: Vulnerable
• Potential wider social Implications of health and safety issues (including issues around compensation)

Social implications of environmental changes attributed to shipbreaking:

Changes in seawater quality (Contamination of edible crabs with heavy metals recorded, skin irritations reported, decrease in quantities and varieties of fish reported by fisher folks, who have to fish further out to sea, increasing fuel costs and vulnerability to storms and piracy, etc)
Changes in air quality (Respiratory problems and eye irritations reported, risk of airborne asbestos fibres, etc)
Introduction of artificial lighting for night work (Affects movement patterns of some species of fish, adversely affecting fisherfolk)
Changes in noise and vibration (Disturbance, hearing damage, etc)
Aesthetic changes (Complaints by local residents of aesthetic decline)
Clearance of mangroves and planted trees (Land clearance for yard creation increases vulnerability to cyclones, storm surges, etc)


• Environmental benefits (reuse, recycling, resource conservation) but serious pollution
• Social and economic benefits (generation of employment and revenue, etc) but different implications for different groups and uneven distribution of costs and benefits.
• All workers suffer but migrants do most hazardous work and lack entitlements and justice - compounded by poverty, illiteracy, lack of local support network, language barriers, lack of alternatives, etc
• Fishing communities have generally been very disadvantaged
• Simultaneous reduction and exacerbation of vulnerability – vulnerability to hunger is replaced by vulnerability to a new set of hazards and risks.

Concluding Remarks:

• In a context of widespread and extreme poverty, concern about pollution is not a high priority and environmental justice and environmental health are sacrificed in the pursuit of development and material security.
• Production costs are effectively shifted from financial to environmental and social – often borne by the most vulnerable
• “‘Sustainability’ within one jurisdiction is being achieved by exporting risk and hazard elsewhere” (Adams, 2001, p. 288)
• The industry in Bangladesh is not only a product of activities at the local and national level but also of political and economic processes occurring internationally

The Challenge:
How can the industry’s important positive contribution to the development be harnessed and its negative impacts reduced, without rendering it financially non-viable?

Source: Hannah Schellander. hannah.schellander@defra.gsi.gov.uk
7 January 2009

Mare Island Naval Shipyard to add 100 jobs refurbishing historical navy ships:

In this photo is the USS Iowa which is currently docked at Mare Island. Mare Island Naval Shipyard to add 100 jobs refurbishing historical navy ships
Photo: US Navy

Mare Island Naval Shipyard announced yesterday that they are adding 100 jobs in the next few months to dismantle and scrap the historical naval ship fleet which is stored at the yard. This is good news for Vallejo, which is partly economically driven by the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, which is also a National Historical Landmark. The shipyard dates back to 1850 when the land was declared for government use. The docks were built during the Spanish-American war and military ships began using the base on a regular basis. The base was part of the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure report from Congress, leaving the structures and many old naval ships left on the property awaiting restoration or demolition.

Mare Island was first discovered by a Spanish Explorer named Perez Ayala. The island became the European land in the area. In 1834 Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo named the island Mare Island after his mare went missing and was found when he swam ashore the island.

In 1850 California became a state. This prompted a review of California lands, and President Fillmore decided that Mare Island should be reserved for government use. In 1852 the island was transferred to the US Navy for $83,410 to be used as a naval shipyard. By 1954 Mare Island was the first permanent U.S. naval base on the west coast.

In 1891 the Navy began building dry-docks on the island. The work continued through the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. As new dry-docks were being installed, the base housed Navy personnel and was used for naval operations during the wars.

In 1941 a hospital was added to Mare Island and by the Vietnam War the base was used for training and boat operations. The base was officially deactivated in 1996; however the US Navy Reserves still uses portions of the island for training exercises. During the course of the base’s history, over 500 ships were built on Mare Island which included nuclear submarines.

The project began in the 1990’s and has included three residential neighborhoods, a state wildlife area, and office buildings. Ships that are still located near Mare Island include the USS Iowa and the USS LCS (L) (3) 102. Yesterday’s announcement to add 100 jobs to the project rounds out the restoration and reuse plan for Mare Island by freeing the bay from environmental hazards.

Source: US Navy, Mare Island Historic Park Foundation, Lennar. By Cathy O'Brien, San Jose Military History Examiner. 19 February 2011.

Chinese Scrapping Ship Trading Plummeted in January:

In January 2011, Chinese buyers purchased 4 scrapped vessels of 3.6 m dwt, declined by 42.86% and 12.25% respectively in volume and dwt on a month-on-month basis.

With the increase of iron ore and steel price, international scrapping price kept rising in January. According to the statistics, the average shipbreaking price for 15000-25000 ltd, 6000-10000 ltd and 7000-12000 ltd tankers came up to $457.7/ltd, $453.1/ltd and $440.3/ltd, increased by 5.31%, 5.46% and 4.85% separately against a month earlier.

Source: EST. 18 February 2011

Shipbreaking Activities in Bangladesh and collision of Marine Biodiversity:

The marine environment of the coastal water is vital to mankind on a global as well as on local basis concerning energy. Man is becoming a dominant part of the ecosystem in many regions, due to his various uses of the marine environment. So the health of marine ecosystem is an important factor in man own existence. The Bay of Bengal which is a potential bode of marine life as well as for it’s vast coastal communities is now continually polluted by different types of pollutant through influx of land base and other sources and put an alarming signal of awareness about pollution in the sea.
The coastal areas of Chittagong Support a complex trophic organization sustain a high biodiversity including some endemic species and are highly susceptible to interference from activities. Coastal ecosystem makes a sustainable livelihood particularly to coastal fishing communities.

Shipbreaking yards along the coast of Chittagong (Faujdarhat to Kumira) has become a paramount importance in the macro-and micro-economic context of poverty- stricken Bangladesh. Shipbreaking activities present both challenge and opportunity for coastal zone management in holistic manner.

The history of shipbreaking is as nearly old as shipbuilding. As we know that a ship is relatively a large vessel capable of operating in the deep ocean. The term ‘vessels’ applies to the vessels of over 5000 tons and that can navigate in open seas. In Bangladesh shipbreaking is popularly known as ‘Beaching’. Shipbreaking started as a business in Bangladesh in 1972. Prior to that, 2/3 ships were scrapped during Pakistan period. It started automatically when a 20000 DWT vessel was drive ashore by the devastating tidal bore of 1965.That was the first ship scrapped on the Chittagong sea beach. At present, shipbreaking is conducted in an area of about 10 km2 by 32 out of 110 ship Breaking yards from Bhatiari, Sonaichhari, kumira under the Sitakunda upazilla of Chittagong.

The Department of Environment (DoE) has categorized the ShipBreaking Industry (SBI) as ‘Red’ in 1995 (EIA guidelines for the Industries, 1997). The Environmental Impact assessment (EIA) is not conducted before the establishment of SBI. As there is no monitoring cell, the Shipyard owners are operating their business overwhelmingly as well as indiscriminately. They are less conscious about hazards, toxicity and environmental pollution whereas more conscious about their benefit.

Wastes of the scrapped ships are discharged directly into its adjacent areas which are ultimately draining into the Bay of Bengal. These wastes especially oil and oily substances, PCBs, TBTs, PAHs etc. and different types of trace and heavy metals (Cd, Pb, and Hg) are being accumulated into the marine biota. As a result, marine fisheries diversity of the Chittagong coast that supports highly diversified marine water fishes, mollusks and benthic organisms etc. is at the stake right at this moment.

Moreover the Coastal inhabitants/fisher folks lead not only their livelihoods but also solely depend on the coastal resources for their protein source. The CPUE (Catch Per Unit effort) has drastically been reduced to more than half comparatively of a few decades ago. As a consequence, the coastal fisher folks are at the stake of their existence. They are either leaving their hereditary profession or migrating to other places and becoming ‘environmental refugees’. That is why their socio-economic status is below the poverty level.

There are few studies was done to find out the linkage between Shipbreaking activity (SBA) and the marine pollution, impact on fisheries biodiversity and livelihoods of the fishermen community. In those researches, investigators considered Bhatiary to Kumira as affected area and Sandwip Island as control area from the shipbreaking activity. The eastern side of Sandwip has been considered as control site because these are diagonally opposite and off the SBYs and the water and soil qualities are apparently free from pollutants as revealed from the earlier studies.

From the previous analysis we found that trace metals concentration in sediments at shipbreaking area are so much higher than recommendation by GESAMP (Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Pollution). But the researchers found that Sandwip which is significantly very lower than that of sediments at affected area. The values of Lead, Cadmium and Mercury  found six and half; eight and half and ninety four times higher than that of certified values respectively. These could be attributed to the combined effects of oil and oil spillage, petroleum hydrocarbons from ships, tankers, mechanized boats etc.

During the investigation all the researcher found water qualities such as Hydrogen Ion Concentration (pH), Dissolve Oxygen (DO), Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), Total Suspended Solid (TSS), Total Dissolved Solid (TDS), Oil and Ammonia (NH3) were concentrated as a higher value in affected area than control area according to the standard value of water quality for the coastal water of Bangladesh (EQS, 1991). All the parameters observed such a higher that they exceeded the value of EQS.

But the water parameters in Sandwip channel were optimum and near to the value of EQS standard. Water qualities in affected area exceeded the EQS standard which reveals that the water body of the adjacent area of shipbreaking yards is not suitable for the existence of flora and fauna. The higher concentration was due to the discharge of various refuse oils and oily substances, dyes, chemicals, iron pieces, various types of metal rusts, solids, dyes, erosion of soil dust etc. from the ship breaking yards. Pollutants are also discharged from the Sitakunda industrial area into the run-off open to the Bay.

Impact of Marine Biodiversity:

Biodiversity, which is sort for biological diversity, is the term used to describe the whole variety of life on earth. In popular usage, the word biodiversity is often used to describe all the species living in a particular area. Biodiversity can be summarized as “Life on earth.” It is defined as “The varieties of life on earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystem, and the ecological and evolutionary processes that sustain it.”

The total biodiversity of an area can be broken down into two hierarchical components: the number of functional types of organisms (animals and plants) or ecosystems (forest, prairie, tundra and marine intertidal) and the number of functionally equivalent organisms within each functional type. There are three types of aspects to biodiversity: species diversity, genetic diversity and ecosystem diversity. All three interact and change over time and from place to place.

Phytoplankton is the primary food producers of the aquatic habitat and plays an important role in the food chain. Phytoplankton is the best index of the biological productivity. Analysis of phytoplankton showed that during monsoon, Aanabaena , Clostratrum (10.98%) and Coscinodiscus (21.97%), Euglena (9.89%) and Zygnema (30.76%) and during post monsoon Coscinodiscus (97.5%) and Euglena (2.5%) dominated in the affected site. In the control site of Sandwip, these were dominated as 30.41%, 19.46%; 17.03%; 9.73%; 23.35% in the monsoon and 94.73% and 5.26% respectively in the post monsoon. Throughout the study period the abundance of phytoplankton at affected site was 91 cells/ l in monsoon season and 80 cells/ l in post monsoon season and in control site it was 411 cells/l in monsoon season and 190 cells / l in post monsoon season.

Drifting small floating animals, in the water body are collectively known as zooplankton on which the whole aquatic life depends directly or indirectly. As zooplankton is very sensitive to optimum condition, so the coastal pollution due to shipbreaking activities may have profound affects on its survival and occurrence. Analysis of zooplankton showed that Calanoida, Cyclopedia, Sagitta, Lucifer etc in the monsoon and Calanoida; Acetes shrimp; Lucifer and Zoea in the post monsoon were dominated in the affected site as revealed during zooplankton analysis whereas in the control site the dominant zooplankton were found as Calanoida, Cylpclpedia, Sagitta and Zoea during the post monsoon and Calanoida; Acetes shrimp, Lucifer, Cladocera and Zoea in the post monsoon respectively.

The bottom living organisms –the benthos play an important role in the food chain especially in the inter tidal zone and it is also well recognized that the richest fisheries of the world are closely related to the benthic communities. Among the macro benthos, Amphipods, Polychaetes, Nemertina and Fish egg in the monsoon and Nemertina, Cladocera, Cyclopoida and Calanoida were found to be dominated at the affected site. But at the control site, Amphipod, Polychaete, Nemertina, Fish egg during the monsoon and Cladocera, Nemertina , Calanoida and Polychaete in the post monsoon were dominated So, the abundance of macro benthos in affected site was 118.46 ind./ m3 in monsoon season and 4186.74 ind./ m3 in post monsoon season, while in in the control site 368.28 ind./ m3 in monsoon season and 14204.41 ind./ m3 in post monsoon season.

The fishery resources of the area seems to be affected by the shipbreaking activities as revealed by increased fishing efforts, reduced species diversity, increased amount of trash fish. Horizontal expansion of the ship breaking yards has posed threat not only to the diversified coastal resources but also on the adjacent coastal inhabitants specially the fisher folks. The fishing hamlets of this study were found backward in the field of primary education and health that are the basic needs for them. Communication and drinking water supply were observed satisfactory but the sanitation status was found to be very poor. Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) study showed that about 90% of them were local and full time fishermen and 10% were migratory of different districts including Bhola, Barisal, Mymensingh and others. The fisher folks are dissatisfied with different NGO activities working in this area. No government aid was found to be available for the welfare of fishermen communities.

The catch has declined in the tune of at least 50 to 60% of what was two decades ago. This incident has got serious implication in the context of survival of such a disgraced community. It was found that about 70% of the fishermen had either nets or boats or both of them. They use both mechanized and non-mechanized boats and some traditional fishing crafts (Dinghi) for fishing. Among the fishing nets Set Beg Net (Behundi Jal) and Gill Net (Ilish Jal) were found to be widely used. Though the gears are available for fishing, they can catch a very little amount in every effort. They uniquely reported that the fish catch had been reduced more than half of the previous time.

Analysis of catch composition indicates that some commercially important fishes like Indian salmon (Polynemus indicus) commonly known as Lakhua, grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus) known as bole coral; Long jew fish (Otolithoides brunneus) locally known as lombu fish; spanish mackerel (Cybium guttatum) known as maitta and butter fish (Psenes indicus) etc are in endangered position. Some other commercially important fishes like River shad (Tenualusa ilisha) Jwelled shad (Ilisha filigera) locally known as choikka; mud skipper (Gobies); mango fish (Polynemus paradysius) known as ‘Hriska Machh’; silver pomfret (Stromateus chinensis); bombay duck (Herpodon nehereus); mullet (Mugil cephalus); Sea bass (Lates calcarifer); Anchovy(Coilia dussumeri; Coilia ramkorati; Setipinna taty) etc are reduced in catch.

Many coastal fishermen are leaving their hereditary profession and moving around everyday as ‘environmental refugees’ from a state of unemployed and poverty to underemployment and grim poverty. Due to the deterioration of the water body, fishes are moving away from this area into the deep sea. But the poor fishermen with small fishing boats can hardly fish at deep seas the creditors and swindlers are taking this chances and rush to lend money and thus make them run into debt. The fishermen also reported that while they catch fish at sea they face piracy. They also face the muscle man, middle man and swindlers when they return with fewer amounts of fish. These criminals snatch away the fishes forcefully. The fishermen are exploited by the dealers in dadon (earnest money). It is made obligatory that the middleman determines the price of fish in the season of fish. They are to sell fish to the lenders at a nominal or throwaway price. The middlemen indulge in maintaining miscreants to exercise their authority over them. Before the season of fish they borrow 4/5 thousand Taka from the dadonders (Buyers cum earnest money lenders) to repair the boat which lead them run into debt. Generally the months of March-April-May (Falgoon-Chaitra-Baishakh) are the “season of scarcity” as reported by the fishermen during PRA survey. At this time they require at least Tk. 4000/5000 to repair their boats, nets and for other incidental expenses.

Most of the fishermen opined that ShipBreaking Activity (SBA) creates problems to them and the rest did not respond. Besides, 90% of the villagers of the vicinity were anxious about their existence in future. Their nets for the catching fish become stuck with oil and impurities. They suffer from respiratory difficulties, sonic booms, explosions, lightning, fumes, toxic chemicals and skin diseases. It is clear from the sociological study that coastal fish species diversity has been reduced due to the shipbreaking activities.

The fishermen’s hereditary profession is now at the vulnerable position due to the ShipBreaking Activity (SBA); less access to credit etc. But the most interesting thing is that they are not conscious about their rights and deprivation. The increasing SBA is depleting the fishery resources which simultaneously decreasing catch per unit effort (CPUE). So this trend is provoking the fisher folks to change their livelihoods for what they never feel comfort and safe. Land grabbing by the yard owners also occurs sometime. Expansion of the yard shrinks the area of the fishing villages. They have to leave their space with a very nominal price. They have rights over only 200 feet of the seashore where they dry nets and anchor boats. Erosion of the village by sea wave action threatened the fishing village’s decade after decade. It started in sixties and nearly half a kilometer of the village has disappeared into the sea. Now at least 20,000 people engaged in catching fish are at the stake of their existence.

Bangladesh is a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), 1992 and the Biosafety Protocol. Bangladesh is also a party to the Convention on international Trade in Endangered Species of Wild fauna and Flora (CITES). Bangladesh has a Marine Fisheries Ordinance 1983 (ordinance No XXXV) and under this ordinance government may declare any area of Bangladesh fisheries waters and any adjacent or surrounding land to be a marine reserve (Part VII). So, if government will declare Sandwip channel and its adjacent area as a marine reserve area for fisheries biodiversity it will be. Besides, there are many laws, rules and polices in Bangladesh to conserve marine biodiversity such as The territorial water and maritime zones act (1974) and rules (1977), The forest act (1917), Environment Conservation Act (1995), Protection and Conservation of Fish rules (1985), national fish policy (1996), the water policy (1999), the environment policy (1992). If we want to conserve our marine biodiversity it will be urgent need to establish environment friendly Shipbreaking activity in Bangladesh.

Source: Prabal Barua, Associate Program Officer, Young Power in Social Action, Bangladesh