08 October 2012

10 Major Problems Faced by ShipBreaking Yards:

Over the years, there has been a significant shift in the location of such shipbreaking yards from the European and American locations to loci in countries in the sub-continent and various other Asian regions.

On the positive while it has created innumerable loci in comparatively lesser developed countries, there have been several con factors as well to this trend of emergence.

The cons have in-turn resulted in the development of several problems to the international maritime industry not only in terms of logistics but also in terms of ecological imbalance and marine pollution to the already precarious maritime domain.

For e.g. the Alang shipbreaking yard of India has creating a number of job opportunities in the region; however, it has also led to several other major problems.

Detailed below are 10 such shipbreaking problems, which emphasis the ambiguity of the shipbreaking industry in bold clarity. Kindly note that this is not an exhaustive list.

1. Ill-equipped Facilities:

Ill-equipped ship dismantling facilities translates to mean improper methodologies while dismantling a vessel. Apart from European and American ship dismantling yards, the sub-continental nations boast of a high percentage of ship dismantling yards. The facilities within these yards however are quite inadequate, almost to the point of being negligible when compared to their American and European counter-parts.

In shipbreaking yards of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, many laborers lose their lives because of ill-equipped facilities and lack of safety.

2. Improper Dismantling Results:

Another facet of ill-equipped vessel breaking yards becomes visible post the vessels have been dismantled. Well-equipped facilities are able to discard the waste materials suitably as required by stipulated maritime laws while in lesser equipped yards, the dismantling and the disposal thereafter is not handled, or rather not able to be handled, apropos to the stipulated regulations.  In several shipbreaking yards, the scrapped material remain unattended for years before any steps are taken. This has even lead to formation of ship graveyards because of the unattended ships and scrapped material.

3. Environmental Issues:

Vessels waiting dismantling or in the process of being dismantled, more often than not contain hazardous materials, injurious to health. In ship breaking yards, these toxic ships threaten to poison the surrounding waters of the yard along with the ship dismantlers engaged in the breaking process. This two-pronged ill-effect compounds the problem of maritime environmental sustenance. Materials like asbestos, paints containing mineral components like lead, zinc and cadmium and various other polluting substances are regarded to be extremely threatening. Some of the worst toxic ships in the world have created several controversies because of the poisonous materials present in them.

4. Lack of Disclosure of Hazardous Substances:

Maritime laws also stipulate that vessel operators and owners are required to make full revelation of any toxic/hazardous materials within a ship. Many vessel owners and operators flout this requirement or in case of a disclosure, reveal incomplete data about the ship’s particulars. This not only harms the marine environment but also the workers of shipbreaking yards.

5. Relegation to Less Equipped ShipBreaking Yards:

The cost factor also poses a problem while choosing a ship breaking yard. Well-known shipping conglomerates have been known to compromise with less equipped vessel breaking yards because of the exorbitant shipbreaking costs. Compromise in terms of costing thus becomes a potential threat to maritime environmental concerns. As a result, such cheap and inefficient ship breaking yards have cropped up at several places and are in high demand, creating grave threats to marine environment and human lives.

6. Lack of Workers’ Safety Net:

Unlike various other organised job sectors, shipbreaking doesn’t provide any substantial job security benefit to the workers engaged in it. The absence of a governed payment scheme or safety net as a way of ensuring the workers’ life and savings results in reflecting the entire shipbreaking industry in a negative light. Needless to say, safety of shipbreaking workers- the most important factor to be taken into consideration is more than often neglected.

The shipbreaking yard workers are thus exposed to several dangerous hazards.

7. No Regulation of the Work-force:

Another aspect of the ill-organised nature of the ship dismantling yards in sub-continental countries is the hiring of youngsters and children to dismantle the vessels. This results in severe potential health hazards for such youngsters and children. The trend of hiring young children is still very much prevalent in shipyards of developing countries. Poverty and lack of employment are the main reasons for this.

 8. Flouting of Prescribed Stipulations:

International maritime bodies have established several stipulations pertaining to safety in the ship dismantling sector. However, in spite of such prescribed regulations, there has been a rampant flouting of these stipulations which has further added to the problems of the shipbreaking industry.

9. Loss to the Marine Flora and Fauna:

While dismantling vessels, residual substances like oil could spill onto the surface of the water surrounding the vessel breaking yard. In developing countries, no one cares for marine environment. In such cases, because of the spillage caused by such toxic ships, marine flora and fauna tend to get severely hampered and hindered. In many shipbreaking yards, ships are dismantled on beaches itself, leading to utmost pollution and destruction of marine ecosystem.

10. Loss of Lives of Workers:

Improper working conditions can also mean inhumane working conditions, which could result in loss of lives of the people working in an ill-equipped shipbreaking yard. Lack of safety equipment, insufficient training, and slack rules and regulations, has lead to death of many shipbreaking yard workers and the number is increasing each day.

Shipbreaking problems affect the entire maritime industry adversely. Although the necessity of a shipbreaking yard outweighs its negative, it still becomes necessary to come up with viable solutions to tackle the various problems and assuaging the inclement conditions.

Workable solutions could result in bringing about better efficiency for the entire shipping domain, which would improve not only the shipping sector but also various poor economies in the world.

Source: Marine Insight. 4 October 2012

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