23 October 2011

Ship-scrapping sector in scrapS

CHITTAGONG, OCT 20: Lack of expertise and awareness and greed for earning extra profit by owners are the main reasons of the increasing number of accidents in shipbreaking industry, say expert here. In recent years, Bangladesh's shipbreaking industry experienced a rapid growth. According to Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association, there were between 35 and 40 shipbreaking yards in 2001 in the coastal areas of Bhatiary and Sonaichhari unions of Sitakunda upazila of Chittagong. In the last decade, the industry expanded dramatically and stretched in two adjacent unions, leading to the number of shipbreaking yards being nearly doubled.

But the expertise required for smooth operation of the industry has not developed in a significant extent with this expansion, the experts said.

The new ship-breaking yards suffer from lack of expertise and skilled workers, which has increased accidents in recent years. Records say 15 workers died and 30 others sustained injuries in mishaps at shipbreaking yards in the last 10 months alone, the latest being four deaths at Subedar Ship Breaking Yard in Sitakunda on Sunday.

Engineer Emran Hossain, a master mariner and instructor at BSBA Training Institute, said there is no training institute for workers in this sector to develop skills and expertise. Most workers at shipbreaking yards are illiterate and have no knowledge of health and safety measures, he said.

The workers do not even have any idea of how to scrap ships systematically, so accidents take place off and on due to this lack of expertise and awareness, he Emran Hossain said.

According to him, BSBA Training Institute has been working for the last 6 months in this regard and has trained about 600 ship scrap workers, and another 300 are receiving training.

"We are training them on personal protective equipment (PPE) and some other techniques of scrapping ships," he said.

But only training is not sufficient, he warned -- "involvement of marine engineers and experts is required in scrapping ships to avoid accidents."

BSBA president Hefazutur Rahman said even trained workers are not willing to take safety measures and so most accidents take place mainly due to lack of awareness and unwillingness to take safety measures.

Admitting that paucity of awareness is the main reason for accidents at shipbreaking yards, director at the Directorate of Environment (DoE) Zafar Alam said the tendency of minimising cost of operation by owners at these yards is also responsible for mnishaps. Referring to this week's accident at Jiri Subedar Steel Shiprbeaking Yard, which left four workers dead, Zafar Alam said its owner had hurried somewhat in breaking the ship and started scrapping it without the 'No Objection Certificate' (NOC) from the Environment Department. Lack of awareness among workers was another cause of the accident, he said.

Zafar said the investigation team had found that no safety measures were taken for the workers while they were trying to clean gas from a gas cylinder in the ship.

Director of Bangladesh Environment Lawyers' Association (BELA) Rezwana Hasan said Industries minister and Environment minister are backing the shipbreaking industry by contending that the industry has developed expertise and skilled workers and is not destroying the environment as much as it did earlier. But she said shipbreakers in Sitakunda are not following directives of the High Court, and many government and non-government agencies are supporting them. She also blamed the lax monitoring of DoE, Explosive Department, Labour Department and Industries Ministry for the increasing number of accidents in the industry.

President of Shipbreaking Yard Sramik Karmachari Federation Safar Ali said, "Most scrap ships got into the country are oil tankers. These tankers are highly hazardous and almost all yards lack the necessary safety measures and skilled workers for scrapping those ships’. The ship breakers must emphasize on developing expertise and skilled workers and ensure all the lawful facilities for the workers to reduce the number of the number of accident in the industry, he added.

Source: By Mizanur Rahman Yousuf. 21 October 2011

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