Shipbreaking and recycling has almost doubled in the country this year (2011) compared to last year despite legal barriers the industry faced for nearly 2 years.
Shipbreakers expressed hope that they would be able to recycle about 3.0 million tonnes of scrap next year as the government will formulate the shipbreaking and recycling rules by December 14.
The shipbreaking sector had been facing hurdles over import of old vessels since 2009 due to legal issues which caused reduction in the import of the same.
The country's 125 shipbreaking yards had imported 145 ships weighing 1.7 million tonnes of iron plates in 2011.
The imports dropped significantly in 2010, disrupted by judicial activism, as environmental groups took the issue to court for dumping hazardous materials in the coast and exposing workers to toxic substances. The shipbreakers imported only 75 ships, the lowest in last five years, weighing 1.0 million tonnes of iron plates last year.
"In 2010 there was frequent stoppage and opening of import of old ships resulting in a significant fall in the number of scrap ships," Managing Director of Rising Group - one of the leading shipbreaking yards - Mohammed Amzad Hossain Chowdhury told the FE.
Although import of ships in 2011 almost doubled compared to last year, it could be more if there was no legal complexity, he said.
Last year we were able to import ships for about three months while the import was opened from May to mid-November this year, he added.
There were only 24-25 shipyards three to four years ago whereas there are now 125 yards generating tens of thousands of new jobs, as the introduction of toxic management and natural beaching system draws more investment to the key recycling industry, he said.
"If import was not hampered, we could have recycled 3 times more scrap this year," President of Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association (BSBA) Hefazatur Rahman said.
We expect that the sector would be able to dismantle more than double ships in the coming year after the government notifies the gazette of the rules and guideline before December 14 with the two-year legal troubles nearing an end, Mr Rahman said.
"What we need now is the legal framework whether it is easy or strict for running the industry," Technical Adviser of BSBA Captain Salahuddin Ahmed said.
About 90 per cent of the shipyards now follow the compliance for environment-friendly ship breaking, he said adding the accidents that happen in recent times are due to lack of safe work practices.
Stressing the need for intensive training for the workers, he said about 2,200 people have been trained from the BSBA training centre since April this year.
"It is mandatory for the contractors to provide training to the workers," he said.
Past data shows that Bangladesh played a significant role in the ship recycling world, particularly from 2000 to 2010.
Bangladesh imported nearly 200 scrap vessels weighing 2.2 million tonnes in 2009, making it the largest shipbreaking nation in the world, replacing reigning champion India.
Sitakunda in Chittagong emerged as the world's largest shipbreaking destination as Bangladeshi importers had beaten their competitors in India and Pakistan to buy the highest number of scrap vessels sold in the international market during 2007-2009 period.
The active shipbreaking yards in Sitakunda, 20 kilometres north of the port city of Chittagong, dismantled more than 170 ships in 2008 and 150 in 2007.
Bangladesh used to dismantle around 50 per cent of the ships sent to scrap-yards across the globe, according to BSBA.
The other leading players in shipbreaking are Turkey and China.
The government gave shipbreaking the status of an industry in February this year as part of a long-term plan to promote labour standards and safe toxic management.
The shipbreaking industry is the country's main source of iron and steel. Private re-rolling mills and steel mills melt the scrap dismantled from ships to produce mild steel rods, bars and angles.
Source: Hellenic Shipping News (Sourced from Financial Express, Bangladesh). 12 December 2011