20 October 2012

How we poison Bangladesh with toxic ship carcasses

Workers are dying in Bangladesh’s shipyards because the west's shipping industry - including UK companies - is not taking responsibility for the disposal of ageing vessels

They are known as ‘cutters’: men who enter the tanks of huge ships, armed with a blowtorch, sunglasses and a rag to cover their mouths. Their job is to cut slabs from ships’ hulls that are sent to steel mills for re-rolling. 

The 50 or so cutters working in Bangladesh’s shipbreaking industry who entered the 275 metre long Agate on a December morning last year had been told by their bosses that the ship was ‘clean’ - free from dangerous oil and gas residues. 

But when sparks from their cutting equipment hit the bottom of the tank, there was a massive explosion.

‘It was the main gas tank in the ship. Its size was huge. I was to cut one side of the tank. Other workers also started cutting the tank. After some time the tank exploded with a tremendous bang and the tank burst into flames. I was knocked out and don’t know what happened afterward,’ said Noor Alam (pictured), one of the injured workers.

A 'hell on earth'

The Agate burned for eight hours, killing eight and leaving 13 others with horrific injuries. But for the 30,000 or so workers who make their living dismantling ships on the...

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Source: The Ecologist.  Andrew Hickman. 23 February 2010

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