Economist citing IHS consultancy, said that today the country accounts for around a fifth, at its height in 2008 Bangladesh’s shipbreaking industry accounted for half of all ships scrapped in the world.
In these years Bangladeshi ship breakers found themselves at the forefront of criticism as NGOs and pressure groups exposed some of the worst practices causing environmental and human harm. These included high health risks due to injuries, noxious fumes and the handling of asbestos. Critics said that one way in which Bangladesh competes on cost is that poor workers are unlikely to file claims for accidents or bad health. Another advantage is the use of child labor.
In 2009 the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, a public advocacy group, convinced the Supreme Court to ban all ship recycling not meeting certain environmental standards. The court’s decision meant that by 2010 the shipbreaking industry had come to a halt. Zahirul Islam of PHP, a local manufacturer with a big ship breaking division said that for 14 months the company was unable to import a single vessel for breaking.
Knock on effects hurt the wider economy. A World Bank study estimated that ship breaking employed over 200,000 in Bangladesh. Many of the jobs were subsequently lost. And domestic steel prices rose sharply. Half of all Bangladesh’s steel comes from breaking ships.
Under pressure from the ship breakers, Mr Sheikh Hasina PM of Bangladesh’s has since relaxed the regulations. Mr Hefzatur Rahman president of the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association believes this has saved the industry. From just a score of vessels scrapped in the main part of Chittagong two years ago, about 150 were broken up in 2011.
Greens are not happy and want the ban re imposed. Delphine Reuter of the Shipbreaking Platform, an NGO in Brussels, describes ship recycling as close to slavery. It and BELA are leading the call for more regulation. That bothers international shipping firms and ship brokers, which argue that Bangladeshi ship breakers have cleaned up their act.
Source: Steel Guru. 27 October 2012http://www.steelguru.com/indian_news/Update_on_ship_breaking_sector_woes_in_Bangladesh/289253.html