03 July 2011

Bangladesh's ship breaking industry rebounds but dangers prevail:

The Bangladesh shipbreaking industry is back in full swing to regain the number one spot in shipbreaking business after the country’s high court ruling which eased restrictions on yard owners while insisting on improvements in work and other conditions.

According to Bangladesh Customs data, about 71 old ships have already sailed into Bangladesh waters this year. In which most carried "No Objection Certificates" from the Shipping Department but lacked environmental clearances violating court orders.

The high court in Bangladesh on March 7, 2011, set out 18 points for shipbreaking yards to follow, including the satisfaction of all prevailing environmental conditions, opening training institutes for shipbreaking workers and ensuring a better working environment. But according to environmentalist groups most of these are sidelined.

The Shipping Department requires at least one day to inspect a ship before evaluating its environmental clearance followed by issuing the NOC, yet 71 NOCs were granted in the 41 working days between April 7 and June 7. Aware of the trend, the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) filed a court violation notice against Bangladesh Shipping Department chief chemist Mosharraf Ashraf on April 28.

BELA has been at the forefront of opposition to toxic end-of-life ships being permitted in Bangladesh waters, arguing that they risk the lives of workers scrapping them and threaten to destroy the coastal environment around the ship breaking yards.

The number of such yards in Bangladesh doubled in the 21 months from March 17, 2009, when the high court imposed restrictions on the activity of shipbreaking companies. Around 51 ships were imported in 2008, 34 in 2009 and 31 in 2010, according to Bangladesh Customs, while the number so far this year is more than double last year's total.

The Bangladesh government is also inclined toward the shipbreaking sector as, according to Young Power in Social Action (YPSA), a non-government organization trying to improve shipyard working conditions, every year the government collects almost 9,000 million takas (US$121 million) in revenue through import duty and various taxes. The country is also heavily dependent on ships' metal as a substitute for iron imports.

Bangladesh's shipbreaking industry was the world's largest by tonnage in 2009 until a campaign by environmental groups to shut down the sector.

Source: Scrap Monster. 29 June 2011

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