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

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Readers,
this blog is indeed very interesting. I understand the intentions behind the HC and BELAs / NGO Platform fully and share the view, that a lot of progress has to be made until the ship recycling practices can be considered safe and environmentally sound.
When talking about safety it is clear to anybody in any heavy industry, that training of workers for raising awareness and implementing a general understanding of safe working practices is essential. The IMO has therefore offered funds (3 mioUS) for training of workers. The NGO Platform has undertaken anything to stop this training, successfully! I simply can´t understand the attitude of stopping helpful activities and causing ship recycling to remain in the situation it is in now. This has been and will be criticed by NGOs, for good reasons. However, improving the conditions should be the aim and not maintaining a campaign as long as possible for raising funds. Many workers in Bangladesh denpend on this industry and when they can work safely plus solutions for waste managements have been found, then all is solved and the workers will have food again.
Support for improvements of all related aspects is available, it just has to be made use of and some investments be done.

All the best!
Henning Gramann