26 July 2011

Bangladesh court allows shipbreaking industry to continue work

  • Court gives industry 3 months to implement new safety rules
  • Rights activists say yards too dangerous for workers
  • Boom seen as glut of new ships leads to more sent for scrap

DHAKA, July 25 (Reuters) - Bangladesh's High Court has agreed to allow shipbreaking yards three more months to meet tougher safety and environmental rules on importing old ships to dismantle for scrap, a senior industry official said.

Rights activists had urged the court to reinstate a year-long ban on Bangladesh's $1.5 billion ship scrap industry, saying its activities remained too dangerous for workers and too costly for the environment. The ban was lifted in March.

Bangladesh, the top ship recycling nation from 2004 through 2008, hopes to bring in around 300 ships by the end of next year, up from 220 in 2009 before the ban, traders said.

"The court allowed for importing and dismantling of old ships that ensures the safety and security of both workers and environment," Captain Salah Uddin, an adviser of the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association told Reuters late Sunday.

"Now the government has more time to do a draft and that has to be submitted to the court and the court will examine it."

The court ordered the Ministry of Industry to draft new regulations for importing old ships, and a government committee to monitor the industry to ensure compliance.

Scrapped ships are the main source of steel for Bangladesh, which requires around 4 million tonnes each year.

Maritime recycling yards in the Indian subcontinent and China could see a boom that could run until 2013 as shipowners rush to get rid of ageing vessels, driven by an oversupplied freight market, low shipping rates and high steel prices.

Rights activists say the cost to the environment and the health and safety of Bangladesh workers has been too high, however, with more than 1,000 workers killed on the job since 1996.

A 2003 government study found nearly 90% of workers suffered some form of accidental injury -- from foot injuries to serious accidents -- while working in the country's biggest yards in the port city of Chittagong.

The court lifted the ban after industry vowed to adopt strict rules to protect workers, such as an age limit of at least 18, training and proper safety gear, and cleansing of toxic material from ships prior to arrival.

Yards have already taken adequate steps to reduce the level of environmental pollution and reduce accidents by implementing many of the safety measures, said M.A. Awal, former trade association president.

(Editing by Randy Fabi and Ed Lane)

Source: AlertNet (Sourced from Reuters). By Serajul Quadir. 25 July 2011

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