29 July 2013

Breaking the cycle:

When Norway became the first contracting state to sign up to the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships it signaled the industry’s new approach to ship breaking and recycling.

There is no doubt that the breaking of ships is a hazardous task, not just for the environment impact but also for the workers in the yards. These concerns are the main aspects for why the HK Convention has been introduced.

Entering into force 24 months after ratification by no less than 15 states, the convention’s regulations cover the design, construction, operation and preparation of ships so as to facilitate safe and environmentally sound recycling.

It was in an interview with Dr Nikos Mikelis, non-executive director Dubai-based firm GMS and head of the company’s green ship recycling programme, when I found out about new recycling principles taking place in shipyards in Bangladesh.

Dr Mikelis showed me pictures of workers constructing new ship builds with materials direct from old ships.

He suggests that this is a unique activity and the photo above shows a new building together with another one that is approaching completion. He said he heard of ship scrap plate being used in Bangladesh for such work but he thinks these are the first photos that show this unique activity.

This concept not only shows great innovation, but an idea that will surely be adopted across the world.

Innovation is such a buzz-term, but without the ‘I-word’ modern-day ideas and concepts would never materialise.

It is on this note that if the shipping industry is going to fully conform with the HK Convention, then the workers and managers of the yards, such as the one in Bangladesh, should be fully consulted on new ideas and practices.

Conventions such as the HK treaty will only truly work if the whole industry works together.

Source: Arabian supply chain.

Gadani shipbreaking: a glimpse into the abyss

Life at Gadani is not an easy one. At the world’s third largest ship breaking yard, the work of dismantling a ship for steel and iron and scrapping the trash is done by Pakistan’s most desperate laborers, who earn a meager amount in return and are provided only rudimentary benefits. As some ship-breaking labourers put it, it is a gruelling and dangerous pursuit.

The atrocious accidents that occurred a few days ago leave one in a state of despair. In a ship breaking yard most of the accidents that take place are a result of toxic gas explosions and heavy steel metals. At Gaddani the entire scrapping process is manual. The workers bear the brunt as ship-breaking entails carrying heavy sheets and metal chunks. In many cases the weight they carry far exceeds what is allowed by the Factories Act. Numerous workers have also lost their lives either by being struck by falling objects or by hazardous substances including asbestos fibres.

The workers in the ship-breaking industry of Pakistan are usually illiterate, very poor and hence not aware about their safety and the dire repercussions of poisonous chemicals. Many workers are also not imparted any training on the dismantling process and most of them remain oblivious of the hazards they are exposed to.

Another issue is that there is no formal employment contract between the employer and the employee. Workers are not given an appointment letter and so there is no aspect of permanency in their jobs. Children are the main victims of such injustices. Not only are they denied their rights but they are also threatened if they raise their voice or challenge the status quo.

In spite of signing and ratifying the Basel Convention in June 1994 and the Rotterdam Convention in 2005, the ship-breaking industry in Pakistan continues to be a source of human causalities. These conventions require that parties strictly protect human health and environment against the adverse effects which may result from the generation and management of hazardous wastes. The Gadani incident is a clear indication of the poor implementation of these international law commitments.

Therefore it is vital to address the issue of ship-breaking in Pakistan and its negative impact on the health and environment. It is important to not only adhere to the international commitments regarding ship-breaking but also adhere to international guidelines set out by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The issues at Gadani can be only resolved if the state does away with providing financial assistance to operations that are in contravention of the Basel Convention, such as operations involving ships with extensive asbestos.

It is crucial for Pakistan to also look at International Labour Organisation (ILO) guidelines to ensure that safety standards are met when employing labour in the ship breaking industry. The country must work towards introducing a policy in line with ILO guidelines that includes the control of the import and preparation of ships for breaking, rights of the workers in the ship breaking industry and ensuring proper working conditions at the ship breaking site. All laws and regulations in Pakistan must reflect the information provided on ship breaking by International Labour Organisation (ILO), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the Basel Convention.

Moreover, the laws have to specify that the employer of a ship breaking facility has a responsibility for the protection of the workers with regard to their health and safety. Workers must be trained about their personal safety to control any risk. Workers must be given the right to report any accident or injury to health which arises in the course of their work. The employers must be willing at all times to cooperate with the employees.

As the National Union Federation Secretary says “The ship breaking industry has become a goldmine for investors but it is nothing but a death trap for workers”. It is important to realise that the availability of relatively inexpensive labor should not allow this industry to blithely compromise on workers’ safety. Gadani needs to learn to value human life.

The writer is a lawyer and a researcher based in Pakistan and holds a law degree from the University of London.

Source: the tribune 28 July 2013

28 July 2013

MoD to scrap Royal Navy frigates:

Four Type 22 frigates are to be scrapped, returning less than £3m to the taxpayer, it has emerged.

The decommissioned ships HMS Cumberland, HMS Campbeltown and HMS Chatham have been sold to Turkish ship recycling company Leyal, the BBC reported.

HMS Cornwall has been sold to Swansea Drydocks.

The Ministry of Defence was reported to have sold the ships for just under £3m.

"We believe this deal represents value for money and a number of tenders were received both nationally and internationally," an MoD spokesman said.

"Certain aspects of the ships' equipment will be recycled for use on other vessels and we have tried to be as economical with the disposal as possible."

Source: defence management. 26 July 2013.

Ship breaking may be allowed at Port Qasim:

Friday, July 26, 2013 - Karachi—Federal Minister for Port & Shipping Senator Kamran Michael has expressed his desire that ship breaking industry may encouraged at PQA land with a view to boost economy and to create new job opportunities.

It may be noted that the rising law and order situation at Gaddani Beach which used to be one of the largest shipbreaking yards in the world at one time comes to nowhere in ranking, while Chittagong ship breaking industry has become on top rankings due to friendly working environment.

The port and shipping minister senator Kamran during his first visit to Port Qasim showed his keen interest in development projects in and around port Qasim where he asked the Chairman Port Qasim Agha Jan Akhtar to provide incentives to the investors and port users by revisiting the land allotment policy.

The Minister also advised the PQA Chairman that the port Qasim should have its own tugs rather than hiring which adds to upfront cost of port handling, the government will provide every assistance and support for infrastructure development and other PQA projects.

While highlight the vision of the government emphasized that there is political will to revive economy and to resolve energy crisis and to create new job opportunities with a focus to keep the momentum of development at a high pace.

He assured that the government firmly believes in good governance and integrated efforts for development of the country to bring prosperity to the national.

Source: Pak Obsever. 26 July 2013

Steel industry on the verge of collapse:

Saturday, July 27, 2013 - Karachi—Pakistani steel manufacturing industry is already faced with unequal competition by local ship breaking industry and further power rates hike of Rs. 2.5 per unit would render Steel Industry absolutely uncompetitive and would lead to closure of formal steel manufacturing industry in Pakistan.

Formal steel manufacturing sector in Pakistan is already in a very dismal position due to unfair competition by the local ship breaking industry, which only pays sales tax on 70.5 percent of the total weight of the scrap ships, and the decision to further increasing the power tariff would make steel manufacturing sector further uncompetitive leaving no option for the domestic industry but to close down it business and render hundreds of thousands of skilled workers jobless.

Pakistan Steel Manufacturers Association (PSMA) demands that cost difference between ship-plates by ship breaking industry and steel billets by local manufacturers should not exceed Rs. 1200 per metric ton which is currently around Rs. 10,000 per metric tons making local steel manufacturers completely vulnerable and subject to unfair competition by the hand of ship breaking industry.

PSMA spokesman said that since ship breaking industry pays sales tax only on 70.5 percent of the total weight of the scrap ships which are brought for dismantling at the Gaddani Ship Breaking Yard and it neither pays 20 percent customs duty nor 17 percent sales tax on the remaining 29.5 percent part of the scrap ships since the past many years, the local steel manufacturing plants are facing unequal competition making them suffer huge losses. It may be noted that ship breaking is paying negligible custom duties and sales tax on a few tons compared to thousands of tons of weight of the vessel constituting 29.5 percent.

This practice of not charging sales tax on 29.5% of a scrap ship is going on for almost 5 years now and country has lost billions of rupees due to this criminal non-collection by FBR’s field formations.

He said that Rs. 2.5 increase in power sector would make us more uncompetitive compared to local ship plates hence the equal impact should be levied on ship breaking industry otherwise the difference between ship plates by ship breaking and steel billets by local manufacturer would increase to Rs. 13,000 per ton from current Rs. 10,000 per ton. The spokesman demanded FBR to impose additional taxes on local ship breaking industry by imposing additional custom duties to not only offset the increase in power cost but also to provide a level playing field and equal competition to steel manufacturing industry.

He said that due to multiple problems the closure of local steel industry would cause severe hit to our national exchequer as volume of cheaper and substandard imports will increase due to higher costs of domestic goods and country would have to drain hundreds of millions of dollars on steel products import every year.

Pakistani steel sector is already facing fierce competition by Chinese steel exporters where electricity rate is on average of $68/MWh compared to Pakistan where power cost is whooping $115/MWh almost double to what Chinese government offering to its industry.

Average power rate of 27 countries known for their steel production is about $103/MWh, while in Pakistan it is whooping $115/MWh which itself reveals that Pakistani steel industry is facing worst ever business climate in the country and still trying to compete with the giants at its borders. Domestic steel sector has already lost lot of business to cheap imports in the country and subsequently lost its production value which has severely affected its investment capacity.

We have seen lot of investment in the local steel sector of Pakistan in the recent years which is a foreseeable sign of promising growth in our economy that could also ensure thousands of new employment opportunities in our manufacturing and engineering sectors. However, the unequal competition will cause many projects to shutdown and render thousands of skilled workers jobless in the country. He was however confident that new government will protect steel industry of the country which is mother of all the industries and creates hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect employment opportunities in the country.

He urged the Government to take all the stakeholders into confidence before taking big economic decisions in order to ensure that local industries remain competitive to international competition and continue to play their role in national economic development. He demanded that government MUST take action to protect the local steel melters and rollers.

Source: Pak Observer. 27 July 2013

Industry fears closure as steel billets, ship plates cost gap widens

LAHORE - Cost difference between ship-plates produced by ship-breaking industry and steel billets by local steel manufacturers, which should not exceed Rs1,200 per metric ton, has crossed Rs10,000 per metric tons, rendering local steel industry vulnerable and subject to unfair competition by shipbreaking industry.

Industry sources said that since shipbreaking industry pays sales tax only on 70 percent of the total weight of the scrap ships which are brought for dismantling at the Gaddani Ship Breaking Yard and it neither pays 20 percent customs duty nor 17 percent sales tax on the remaining 29.5 percent part of the scrap ships since the past many years, the local steel manufacturing plants are facing unequal competition making them suffer huge losses. It may be noted that ship breaking is paying negligible custom duties and sales tax on a few tons compared to thousands of tons of weight of the vessel constituting 29.5 percent.

“Steel manufacturing sector is already in a very dismal position due to unfair competition by the local ship breaking industry, which only pays sales tax on 70.5 percent of the total weight of the scrap ships, and the decision to further increasing the power tariff by Rs2.5 per unit would make steel manufacturing sector further uncompetitive leaving no option for the domestic industry but to close down its business.”

They said that Rs2.5 increase in power tariff would make us more uncompetitive compared to local ship plates hence the equal impact should be levied on shipbreaking industry otherwise the difference between ship plates by shipbreaking and steel billets by local manufacturer would increase to Rs13,000 per ton from current Rs10,000 per ton. They demanded FBR to impose additional taxes on local shipbreaking industry by imposing additional custom duties to not only offset the increase in power cost but also to provide a level playing field.

Pakistani steel sector is facing fierce competition by Chinese steel exporters where electricity rate is on average of $68/MWh compared to Pakistan where power cost is whooping $115/MWh almost double to what Chinese government offering to its industry.

Industry sources said that average power rate of 27 countries known for their steel production is about $103/MWh, while in Pakistan it is whooping $115/MWh which itself reveals that Pakistani steel industry is facing worst ever business climate in the country and still trying to compete with the giants at its borders. Domestic steel sector has already lost lot of business to cheap imports in the country and subsequently lost its production value.

Source: The Nation. 27 July 2013

Asia Graveyard shift: Dismantling toxic ships in Bangladesh

The rewards are small and the risks are great for Bangladeshis dismantling some of the world most toxic vessels in Chittagong

Hidden behind high walls just off the Dhaka-Chittagong highway, a sprawling 60-acre ship graveyard sits on the bank of the Bay of Bengal.

Piles of metal sheets and rusty pipes are strewn across the rough ground, dwarfed by the two vast oil tankers almost 70m tall and 300m long in the nearby water, that have reached the end of their lives.

Next to them loom the remains of two huge container ships, already being cut into pieces by workers who appear tiny next to these former beasts of the sea. The stench of salt and rust is overpowering. This is one of almost 70 ship-breaking yards along the coastline of Bangladesh, which together earn the country more than £800m every year.

Some 200,000 workers are believed to work at the shipyards, salvaging the steel, iron and other valuable metals. They survive in some of the worst working conditions in the country.

NGOs have protested relentlessly about the effects of the docking and cutting of these ships that mostly hail from the European Union countries and have often carried toxic cargoes.

They argue that the ships pose a risk to the local environment, as well as the health of the workers, though their protests have largely fallen on deaf ears. A group of barefoot workers carry oversized, used oxygen cylinders out of one of the ships. The oxygen is released into the more remote compartments of the ship, where toxic gases are often found, to allow workers to breathe as they venture in with blow torches and metal cutters.

One worker, 17 year-old Mohammad Afsar, who hails from Bogra in northern Bangladesh, told The Independent that he and his colleagues usually work around 12 to 15 hours per day.

Another worker, Azizul Haque, 52, who is also from Bogra, said general workers make around Tk25 (20p) per hour. “Except for some public holidays, we work throughout the year,” he said. Despite the dangers, this ship-breaking yard is regarded as one of the better ones, mainly because it offers higher wages. It is also one of the few that allows its workers to take holidays.

Only 46 per cent of yard workers are literate, according to a report by Young Power in Social Action, a Chittagong-based NGO. In most of yards, there are no provisions for clean drinking water, healthy food, hygienic toilets or decent living conditions. Only a few shipyard owners provide first-aid kits.

Bangladesh’s government declared ship-breaking an official category of industry in 2011, though most scrap- yard owners still do not abide by the industry’s labour laws.

As a result, the number of deaths and injuries sustained by workers is increasing every year. As of 8 July, local media had reported six deaths at shipyards this year. According to the Brussels-based NGO Shipbreaking Platform (NSP), the deaths of 22 workers were reported at Chittagong scrapyards in 2012. The true number is likely to be much higher. If the death of a worker is reported to the labour courts, relatives are entitled to £852 in compensation. “This was hardly paid by yard owners even two years back,” said Muhammad Ali Shahin, of the Bangladesh NSP.

Shahid Miah, 35, lost a leg when an iron plate from a ship fell on him and six other colleagues in 2012 at the Seiko ship-breaking yard. Now he and his family survive off the income from a small market store. “I was fortunate to survive. The other six died at the spot. My left leg was cut off from the waist down,” he said.

Mr Miah says he did not receive any compensation during his six months of  treatment at the Chittagong Medical College Hospital. “The local imam helped me build this store. During my career at the yards from 2009 till 2012, I have witnessed deaths of 13 workers with my own eyes,” he said.  Mohammad Alamgir, 26, of the Pakija ship-breaking yard, is receiving treatment at the same hospital’s burns unit. “Around June of last year, four of us were working inside a ship. Due to the darkness, we did not see that we were working near a cylinder. There was an explosion and next thing I know I woke up in the hospital bed three weeks later. Due to burns all over my body, I screamed day and night. The company provided me compensation of £29.80.”

The absence of records for the number of workers involved in the ship-breaking is hampering efforts to ensure better working conditions. The life expectancy of workers at these yards is 20 years lower than in other industries. In the course of their work, they are exposed to asbestos, mercury and arsenic and other toxic materials.

Most ships contain an average of 15,000lbs of asbestos and 10 to 100 tons of lead paint. When these ships are dismantled on the beaches of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, these pollutants, along with solid waste, are dumped into the ocean. According to the NSP, over the past few decades, ship breaking has flourished in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Steel and iron from the ships satisfies 70 per cent of Bangladesh’s iron and steel demands.

The absence of an effective environmental assessment system is making it easier for yards to accept ships that once carried toxic chemicals, according to NGOs. During the first six months of 2013, EU nations sent “178 toxic ships to India, 94 to Chittagong in Bangladesh and 42 to Gadani in Pakistan,” according to Patrizia Heidegger, the executive director of NSP.

“Currently, all end-of-life vessels contain hazardous materials. Unfortunately, there are no clean ships,” Ms Heidegger said. Selling the ships to such breaking yards is legal, though Ms Heidegger argues that it poses moral questions.

“There is a clear double standard: European ship owners – and companies from other developed countries – send their end-of-life vessels to Bangladesh and India… But they are broken down under conditions that would never be acceptable for example in the UK or China.

“Our demand is clear: either the South Asian governments decide to upgrade the facilities, to co-operate with the international community, who offer assistance and demand higher standards from the yard owners, or to end the practice.”

When asked about conditions for workers at the ship-breaking yards, Hefazatur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association, which claims to represent the workers, said the descriptions of poor standards were “propaganda by the NGOs”.

“We give the highest salary to our unskilled workers as has been stated by Bangladesh’s Ministry of Labour and Employment recently,” he said. He also dismissed accusations that the ships are polluting the region’s beaches.

“Even this year, fishermen caught the highest number of fishes from the Bay. Also vegetation around the shores is aplenty,” he said. “If pollution is so serious near the shores due to ship breaking activities, how can fishes and vegetation survive?”

Source: independent. 26 July 2013

Blue Ocean wants to recycle, not break, region’s derelict vessels:

The term shipbreaking, a common term used for dismantling ships, scrapping and selling their metal and other usable components, sticks in the craw of Frank Allen, the organizer behind Blue Ocean Environmental and its proposal to dismantle vessels at the Port of Astoria’s North Tongue Point facility.

His proposed operation, he said, isn’t haphazardly breaking but methodically cleaning and recycling; it’s sticking to vessels less than 200 tons – boats instead of ships – for the foreseeable future; and it isn’t trying to do anything in the water, an environmentally concerning practice found in places like Brownsville, Texas, but illegal in Oregon.

During a public presentation and forum Thursday at the old Port of Astoria offices, Allen told the sparse audience of eight how he wants to start a trial run with a 40-foot vessel languishing at North Tongue Point, then stop and see what the community thinks, holding an additional community forum.

Cleaning, then dismantling

“I couldn’t think of a more benign way to do this than fix a problem then stop,” said Allen of the derelict 40-foot fishing vessel Cap’n Oscar, owned by the Port and languishing alongside Pier 2 at North Tongue Point.

Allen, whose main business is internationally trading seafood through his company Live Online Seafood, wants to bring in an expert demolition team from New York he’s worked with before as a commercial and industrial contractor on the East Coast.

He’d also hire some locals to start teaching them the process. If the operation continues, he said, it will eventually need a homegrown workforce, possibly including training opportunities at Tongue Point Job Corps Center and Clatsop Community College.

His crew from New York would take the vessel onto the docks on a dolly with welding supports on the sides to keep it erect.

“What’s different with the other operations is they go for the scrapping first,” said Allen. “We’re going to go in and clean it up first, then we’re going to scrap it out.”

All usable, working parts would be salvaged and sold whole. Then they would proceed with scrapping and dismantling. The metal would be barged to Seattle to steel firm Nucor Corp. (www.nucor.com), which would reprocess it for use in the U.S.

His crew from the East Coast, he added, has used the same method on two barges in New York.

After checking with Job Corps, Allen said his operation hours wouldn’t extend beyond their’s, between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

“I want to make sure you finish the job and make it broom clean,” said Leon Jackson, adding that the Port should hold a bond until the first vessel is completely done with. Jackson came to learn more of the operation, he said, after reading mostly negative and contradictory coverage in The Daily Astorian.

“We can bond up to $10 million right now,” said Allen, adding that the Port has asked for a deposit. There is no agreement yet in place between the Port and Blue Ocean.

Allen and Port staff lamented previously over not being able to work inside the western portion of Hangar 3 that previously housed the evicted Pacific Expedition yacht-building company. The city’s building inspector said it needed to undergo significant improvements. It was hoped that doing it indoors would eliminate many of the environmental hazards, and Allen offered to clean the portion of the building, left with fiberglass debris on the inside, before starting.

But the door hasn’t closed on using Hangar 3 yet, said Port CEO Hank Bynaker, who’s been meeting with city officials to see what can be done to make the structure suitable for the operation.

Allen, who said he has to hire engineers to ensure Hangar 3 will be suitable, hopes to start work on the Cap’n Oscar within a month, adding that the cleaning, scrapping and dismantling process should take about a week. Then the review by the Port and the general public would begin.

Keeping track

Lori Durheim, a regular watchdog of Port operations, asked who monitors Blue Ocean’s activities. Allen said the Department of Environmental Quality in Oregon and the Washington Department of Ecology monitor, adding that he’s likely to get lots of attention during the first vessel work from both environmental and governmental organizations.

“It’s in our best interest to do well by them,” said Allen. “We have to get contracts from them. We want to be on their preferred vendor list.”

He keeps a watch list of substances like asbestos and PCBs, adding that old inventory left in the boat often poses the biggest hazard.

“We’re trying to get registered as a green ship recycling facility,” he said of his operation, disassociating it from the haphazard shipbreaking yards of Alang, India, Brownsville and others where vessels are simply run aground and torn apart with little environmental or safety concerns.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Seattle-based Basel Action Network and Greenpeace created the Green Ship Recycling Standard in 2008 through their joint organization, the NGO Platform on Shipbreaking. It seeks “to establish an environmentally sound management and methodology in shipbreaking and recycling of ships.”

Referring to instances such as the $20-million cleanup of the sunken Davy Crockett in Camas, Wash., and the $5.4-million cleanup of the fire-gutted and sunken Deep Sea in Seattle, Allen said his operation is trying to be proactive.

Starting as a money-loser

Leon Jackson asked about the owners of boats.

“There’s 300 to 400 vessels like this in Washington and in Oregon that are abandoned and sinking in the river,” said Allen, adding that owners will often buy moorage in a marina or Port before leaving them.

Jackson asked Allen how much the Cap’n Oscar will cost to dismantle. Allen said it would likely take $20,000 out of his pocket, but he’d continue doing small vessels for proof of his method’s merits if needed. The operation can turn a profit, he said, once he can get the vessels in place for free from the public or private entities trying to dispose of them.

Ted Thomas, another regular meeting attendee, asked Allen if he had thought about connecting rail to ship metal from Tongue Point.

“That’s down the road,” said Allen, who would like to gradually increase the size of vessels over time. “We need to prove that we can do this one first.”

There’s no set timeline for when Blue Ocean could start and no agreement with the Port.

Source: The Daily Astorian. By EDWARD STRATTON.  26 July 2013

25 July 2013

Workers at shipbreaking yards abandoned to their fate:

GADDANI: Despite eight fatal accidents within a month, work at the ship-breaking industry at Gaddani goes on as usual. The labourers here, all daily wage earners, have witnessed so many accidents that they get confused when asked about the recent casualties involving two labourers who fell to their death.

“No, they were not two workers but three. And they didn’t fall but were burned to death,” said Sher Khan, a welder, while taking a breather in between his work. “You see, there was oil at the bottom of the ship that caught fire while they were working there,” the welder said.

Asked if they tried putting out the fire or if the fire department was called, Mr Khan said: “It was an oil fire that spreads rapidly. They had gone very quickly before any fire tender could arrive here.”

“There was only one welder who died and not three,” says another man working on separating the borders from an iron sheet. “That man, too, was separating an iron curtain in the ship with his blow torch and it separated suddenly from an odd angle and fell on him,” he added.

“I think you must be referring to the men who fell from the ladder,” Shahroze Khan hailing from Mardan interrupted him. He said the labourers, were named Yunus and Ashraf, and one of them was climbing up the ship on a monkey ladder when he slipped. “He fell on the other one working his way up at quite a distance below him and both fell into the ship’s hull into the oil and gas pocket that also has toxic chemicals. They didn’t survive,” he said.

“Ship breaking is dangerous work. Anything that involves working with heavy iron is dangerous. Still we work here day in and day out at Gaddani for money,” he said.

Asked if his family was worried or concerned about his working in such dangerous conditions, Shahroze Khan gave a short laugh. “All they are concerned about is the money that I make sure reaches them every month. I earn around Rs30,000 a month. Where else can an illiterate labourer like me make that kind of money?” he asked. “If this place is written as my place of earning I will keep on working here. If my end is also written here then it is my luck!” he remarked.

“Only the labourer who fills out clay pots and pitchers with water is safe from harm. All the other jobs here carry maximum risk,” said his supervisor, Mohammad Bashir, who hails from Gujranwala. He said he had been working at Gaddani for 35 years. “Look at me now. My hair has turned grey. When I first came here, I didn’t even have a moustache. But I learned the ropes here as time passed. The hardest and most risky work here is right there on the ship. That’s the real ship breaking. But accidents occur here on the ground as well. We are all vulnerable,” he said.

“Having worked here for several years, I happen to know how to carry out all kinds of laborious jobs,” said 50-year-old Allah Diya, another senior worker, who hails from Multan. “And we have to do as told. I was 16 when I first came here. And since then I have seen so many fatal accidents at Gaddani that I have lost count,” he said. “The good thing is that I make good money, of course. And that allows me to go home and spend time with my family after every four to five months,” he explained.

Mohammad Jawaid, a 25-year-old worker from Burewala, said that he had injured his foot last year. “A heavy metal piece fell on my foot. It wasn’t so bad I couldn’t work for several days,” he said.

Asked if he was given medical allowance or free medical treatment, Mr Jawaid said he wasn’t. “We are all daily wagers here. So there is no medical allowance. Still my boss is kind enough to not cut off my daily wage during the days I am recuperating due to an injury or illness. So I continue to receive my Rs506 a day,” he said.

About the labourers working at Gadani, he said that they were mostly from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “There are hardly any locals doing shipbreaking. We are more skilled and hardworking,” he boasted.

Another worker at one of the shipbreaking yards, who declined giving his name, said that there was a hygiene and environment department of the government that was not doing its job at Gadani. “Before breaking a ship, people from the department are supposed to come here and check if the environment in the ship is fit for working. They need to see if the ship still has oil or if there are toxic gases accumulating there. There should be no blow torches where there is gas. But these people don’t even guide us about such things. Instead they come to see our employers for extortion. That done, they gave them a certificate to carry on with the work,” he said.

“And you would think that there should at least be hospitals or clinics … ambulances where there is so much risk to life, but there is only one old ambulance, which doesn’t even start sometimes, to cover all the ship-breaking yards at Gadani,” he added to his grievances.

Wages & welfare

Meanwhile, Musharraf Humayoun, finance secretary of the Ship-Breaking Labour Union, Gadani, said that accidents did happen at Gadani more than other places and that was why they had made sure that the families of the victims got maximum compensation.

“There have been eight deaths during the past month. These men are not permanent workers. There is no workers’ welfare fund for them. Yet someone has to take responsibility for the accidents. The usual compensation given by the government is Rs200,000 but in our case we have made it Rs300,000. And adding the death grant it amounts to Rs500,000,” he said.

The secretary also said that they had fought for and got implemented a 22 per cent increase in workers’ salaries. “As of July 1, 2013, the daily wage of the workers will range between Rs600 and Rs650,” he said.

On July 15, there were at least three workers arguing with their supervisor over payment of wages. They said that they were paid a collective amount of their daily wage after every 15 days, which their employer was avoiding to do on Monday. “Yes, they do get paid after every 15 days but delays also happen. Still if the employers are being too difficult, the workers can always report to us and then we intervene to get them their right,” he claimed.

Source:  The Dawn.  16 July 2013

Salvage crews rush for 1 chance to move Concordia:

GIGLIO, Italy—Salvage crews are working against time to remove the shipwrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship, which is slowly being crushed under its own weight on its perch of granite seabed off the Tuscan island of Giglio. Officials said Monday that if this attempt fails, there won't be a second chance.

Nick Sloane, the leader of the salvage operation, said the Concordia has compressed some 3 meters (10 feet) since it came to rest on its side on the rocky perch Jan. 13, 2012, after ramming a jagged reef when it skirted too close to the island during a publicity stunt allegedly ordered by the captain; 32 people were killed.

Sloane, an engineer for U.S.-owned company Titan Salvage, said experts would have one chance to pull the ship upright and float it away to the mainland for demolition. The attempt will probably take place in mid-September. "We cannot put it back" down and start over, said Sloane.

Sloane spoke aboard a work boat as he accompanied journalists for a close-hand look of the wreckage on the eve of the trial of Capt. Francesco Schettino, who is charged with manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all passengers had been evacuated.

The trial, which was supposed to get under way July 9, was postponed until Wednesday due to a lawyers' strike. The Italian captain denies wrongdoing, and claims his skillful guiding of the ship after the collision helped save countless lives.

The timetable to remove the Concordia has also been back. The original plan envisioned removal before start of this summer, but bad weather undermined those plans.

"We lost two months to weather," said salvage master Sloane, explaining that the season's harsh sea conditions made it risky for diving teams to work, including installing bags that are filled with cement to provide a more stable base when the flat-keeled ship is pulled upright.

Sloane said the granite seabed also proved more resistant to drilling than imagined. It was "like trying to drill through glass at a 45-degree angle."

Pressure to make the unprecedented operation succeed is mounting as experts worry that a small window of opportunity to pull off the ambitious feat could shut in a few months.

"Another winter and we might not be able to parbuckle," Sloane said, using the nautical term for righting a ship. He expressed concern that the ship might compress even further, making it impossible to pull it up upright and into a position so it can be floated away.

The project calls for dozens of crane-like pulleys flanking the ship to slowly start tilting the vessel upright at a rate of 3 meters (yards) per hour. In all, the parbuckling should take about 12 hours.

On Monday several welders moved like Spiderman on the now horizontal hull, securing steel pieces which will function like hooks. Steel chains weighing 17,000 tons are being looped under the wreck to help pull it upright. So far 18 chains have been laid, with the remaining four to be put in place over the next few days.

To work on the tilted wreck, the welders were given five days of climbing training on nearly sheer granite rocks on the island by instructors from Italy's Dolomite mountains.

Crews are also attaching caissons, or tanks, to the exposed flank of the Concordia. The caissons will be filled with water to add weight and help pull the ship upright. Identical caissons will be attached to the submerged side of the ship once it's righted. The caissons on both sides will then be filled with air to float the ship up off the rocks so it can be towed away.

The 70-meter-long gash on the Concordia's hull has been largely covered with metal plates, though an exposed 3-meter (10 foot) wide hole remains, resembling a truck garage entrance. Crews said there was no need to cover that remaining hole. The gash itself wasn't repaired, since engineers said it wasn't necessary. The salvage operation extracted 96 tons of granite reef from the hole, Sloane said.

Just inside the gashed area were four compartments designed to be water-tight, including engine rooms, Sloane noted.

At the very top level of the luxury liner, just over the area where the reef speared the ship like a jagged knife, was the passenger dining room. Its big picture windows gave diners a view of the lights of Giglio as the Concordia tried to glide close to the coast, the inky blackness of a winter's night view broken only by the lights in islanders' houses.

Survivors have recounted how, many of them dressed in cocktail dresses and suits, were just sitting down for a gala first-night meal when the collision occurred, setting off panic and confusion with no quick word from the crew about what exactly had happened.

After slamming into the reef off Giglio, the ship drifted toward port, where, badly listing as it rapidly took on seawater, it capsized. Passengers described a frantic and delayed evacuation, with the bridge initially insisting to inquiring coast guardsmen that the ship had merely suffered a blackout.

Bodies of two of the victims—an Italian passenger and of a Filipino waiter—were never found.

Every day, divers "see mattresses and towels hanging from balconies. Every time they see it, they are very aware ... there are still bodies" possibly under the wreck, Sloane said. The removal projects' divers haven't gone into the wreckage; the futile search for the last two victims' bodies was conducted earlier by fire department and coast guard divers.

Franco Porcellacchia, coordinator of removal plans for Costa, which is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp., estimated that the removal would cost about 500 million euros, paid for by insurers.

Where the wreck will be towed for demolition—assuming it can be floated away—has yet to be decided, although Italian media have mentioned the Tuscan port of Piombino as a possibility. Porcellacchia said one difficulty is finding a port that can handle the cruise ship's dimensions, which will be made even wider by the caissons that will be attached to each side.

While Giglio has fretted about losing tourists because of the wreck, the island's port bustled with vacationers Monday. And the removal has brought new business: Two hotels overlooking the wreck are booked year-round by crews.

At cafes near the port on Monday, welders in work jumpsuits and rubber boots rubbed elbows with sunbathers in shorts and flip-flops.

A bronze plaque along a harbor wall lists the name of the 32 people who perished on what was supposed to be a pleasure cruise.

Source: mercury news. 15 July 2013

Why Adani’s proposed shipbreaking facility in Mundra, Gujarat's Kachchh should not be allowed:


Inter Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Ship breaking
Union Ministry of Steel
Government of India
New Delhi

Date: July 19, 2013

Subject- Why Adani’s proposed ship breaking facility in Mundra, Gujarat's Kachchh should not be allowed


This is with reference to the new ship breaking facility near Mundra West Port in Gujarat’s Kachchh district proposed by Gautam Adani led Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited (APSEZL), a part of the Adani Group of Companies should not be allowed. It was formerly known as Mundra Port and Special Economic Zone Limited.  Lessons learnt from the destruction of coastal environment at Alang beach create a compelling logic against yet another ship breaking beach in India.

I submit that in the post Environment Protection Act, 1986 era, there is a compelling logic for the conditional environmental clearance given to ship breaking operations in the coastal environment to be revoked. The first ship, called ‘Kota Tenjong’ was beached in Alang coast on February 13, 1983 when the adverse consequences of ship breaking was not known and there was no rule to protect coastal environment.

I wish to inform you that on July 30, 2013 there will be a public hearing for Adani’s proposed shipbreaking facility. The public hearing will happen on the basis of the Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) prepared in May 2013 by Mecon Limited, a Government of India Undertaking under the Union Ministry of Steel for their proposed shipbreaking/recycling facility.

It may be recalled that Adani group had entered into an agreement with the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) for developing port and related activities at Mundra but its plan to enter the ship-building business by setting up a shipyard at Mundra appears to have been derailed. But in a new development it has proposed to re-enter the shipbreaking business. Reportedly, Adani led group has been in the shipbreaking business in the USA till recently.

On behalf of ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) which has been involved in research and advocacy with regard to hazardous waste trade and has been an applicant in the Supreme Court, before Parliamentary Committees and relevant UN bodies, I wonder whether it is a coincidence that the sinking of Panama flagged MV Rak Carrier carrying on board 60,000 tonnes of coal for Adani Enterprise Limited reportedly drifted about 20 Miles off Mumbai on August 4, 2011 amidst an apprehension that it may have been staged to claim insurance money for its cargo of coal on board. The ship sank and caused oil spill. Was it an exercise meant to test waters and the regulatory strength of agencies involved?   This may be looked into. The matter with regard to MV Rak is before the National Green Tribunal.

I submit that as per its Draft EIA report, this new ship breaking/recycling facility has been envisaged adjacent the existing Mundra West Port, which is being expanded. The proposed ship recycling facility will handle ships to recover about 300,000 tons/year of various materials. Mundra West Port is located near Vandh Village in Mundra Taluk of Kachchh District in Gujarat state at an aerial distance of about 16 km south-west of Mundra town. The project is within the port limits notified as Special Economic Zone (SEZ). The proposed ship recycling facility measures 40.7432 hectare adjacent to the existing Mundra West Port.

It is germane to note that citing massive pollution as a reason, Sachana shipbreaking plots in Jamnagar district, Gujarat has been closed as per the order dated November 22, 2011 from the Office of Chief Forest Conservator, Gujarat government. The order is specifically meant “to cancel the plots allotted of Sachana ship braking yard. These plots are in the land of Forest / Marine Sanctuary”. Both the English translation and the order in Gujarati is attached.

The order reads: “Because of ship-breaking, harmful objects like arsenic, mercury, asbestos, oil, etc could harm marine life in the long time. This leads to complex problems for protecting and conserving the Marine National Park and Marine sanctuary.”

I submit that these observations are quite relevant for the proposed ship-breaking operations in the coastal environment of Mundra West Port given the fact that it is admitted that “At present most of the land is still submerged and only a minor portion is located in the inter-tidal zone.”

It is also revealed that “The land for the project is being created by dumping dredge spoils, generated due to expansion of Mundra West Port, up to 7.0 m above the chart datum” in the EIA report.

I submit that earlier, Kheti Vikas Sewa Trust and Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan (MASS) had sent complaints to Union Ministry of Environment & Forests regarding severe impact upon environmentsafety and integrity in the Mundra Port and SEZ Limited area committed by the Adani company in question. The Ministry constituted a Committee for inspection of M/s Adani Port and SEZ Ltd., Mundra, Gujarat. The Committee’s terms of reference is relevant in this case as well since by implication it underlines why Adani’s proposed ship breaking facility too should not come up in this ecologically fragile zone. The committee examined the allegations regarding bunding/diversion/blocking of creeks and reclamation etc., and distortion of original High Tide Line (HTL), the HTL submitted by the proponent and HTL of the approved Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP), compliance to the conditions of the Environmental Clearance (EC) and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Clearance granted, the destruction of mangroves and leveling of sand dunes, the likely impacts on agriculture due to ingress of salinity resulting from creation of huge water body of sea water for Adani Power Plant at Mundra Taluka and the issues related to earthquake/tsunami/other natural calamities and soil liquefaction which may be impacted adversely. These concerns are manifestly pertinent for the proposed ship breaking facility.

It is clear that in a tactical and clever manner the company has taken environmental clearance for its various projects in the proposed region in installments by outwitting the regulatory agencies. This ploy is apparent when one reads in its claim in the Draft EIA report that “APSEZL had received Environmental and CRZ Clearance for Water Front Development Clearance from Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India, vide letter no.10-47 / 2008 – IA-III dated 12th January, 2009 and addendum dated 19th January, 2009.” Such truncated approach in grant of environmental clearances “has led to massive ecological changes with adverse impacts” the committee observed.  The proposed ship breaking facility is bound to aggravate the situation if cumulative and induced impact is taken into consideration.

I submit that the Technical EIA Guidance Manual for Ship breaking prepared for the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests myopically states, “The economics of the system was very straightforward - the owner receives money for his ship; the breaker receives enough money for his scrap to pay his expenses and make a profit.” This straightforward economics does not include the human and environmental cost of the hazardous ship breaking activity. Adani has been in the shipbreaking business in USA. US is a non-party to Basel Convention unlike India and has adopted a policy to transfer its obsolete ships to countries like India. Its attempts faced legal challenge in the case of SS Norway, SS Independence and Exxon Valdez.    

It admits that in Indian waters, “the ships are scrapped directly on the beaches or the vast inter-tidal mudflats exposed daily by about 10m tidal gauge. The beaching method of the Indian sub-continent relies heavily on low labour cost, since it involves very little mechanisation.” This beaching method which Adani’s company proposes in Mundra is fatally flawed. The four fatal flaws of the beaching method for ship breaking include: cranes cannot be placed alongside ship, lack of access by emergency vehicles and equipment, no possibility for containment and coastal zone, intertidal zone is environmentally sensitive and managing hazardous wastes in the intertidal zone can never be environmentally sound.

I submit that unmindful of these ecologically destructive practices in an exercise of sophistry, Dr Nikos Mikelis, Head of the Marine Pollution Prevention and Ship Recycling Section of International Maritime Organisation (IMO) argues that it was "neither logical nor ethical to stop sending ships to South Asia" at the behest of European and Japanese ship owners demonstrating complete disregard to the fragile coastal environment which has been heavily contaminated and it is crying for remediation. The way Alang beach has been colonized by the foreign ship owners in the same way Mundra too is sought to be handed over to shipping companies from the industrialized countries for dumping their end-of-life ships against the cardinal principal of hazardous waste management.

I submit that IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) contrary to its name and mandate is evidently colluding with those countries like Japan and USA which opposed Basel Convention that regulates and prohibits hazardous wastes trade from the outset. If the embargo on both national and international media which stops journalists and researchers from entering the Alang yards to ascertain for themselves as to whether or not there is any improvement in the “grave yards” of Alang it can reveal the disastrous impact of ship breaking activity which has been given to poison and pollute the beach beyond remediation for good.

I submit that permitting free trade in hazardous wastes like end-of-life ships is anti-national, anti-nature and anti-worker. It is well known that waste follows the path of least resistance. Indian regulatory agencies have either failed to see through the linguistic corruption being indulged in by foreign ship owning countries and companies to bulldoze hazardous wastes in the name of recycling or they are colluding with IMO which is undermining UN’s Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal hard earned by developing countries like India at the behest of the traditional enemies of this Convention.

I submit that the steel scrap generated from ship recycling contributes to around 1% of India’s domestic steel demand and is primarily a source of raw material for the re-rolling mills which convert this scrap to mainly produce rods and bars which find application in construction industry. Ship breaking activities contribute to total scrap steel supply and a significant number of re-rolling mills are increasingly dependent on them. This has also given birth to the issue of radioactive steel because of which the secondary steel products from India are globally under scrutiny. It may be noted that Steel Ministry is the focal point for the ship breaking activity although proposed Shipbreaking Code 2013 reveals that foreign ship owners seem to have prevailed on government to hand over its jurisdiction to Ministry of Shipping.   

I submit that keeping gnawing concerns the impact on the environmental health of the hazardous industrial activity in question makes ship breaking in India fall under a WIMBY (Welcome Into My Backyard) logic wherein waste is welcomed or application of Lawrence Summers' Principle wherein it was argued that it makes impeccable economic logic to transfer hazardous industries to developing countries.

In view of the above, I wish to persuade the IMC that by refusing permission for the proposed ship breaking facility, India can send give a categorical message to the foreign ship owning countries that they should keep their own waste and ‘recycle’ them ad infinitum instead of treating Indian waters as their landfills.       

Thanking You

Yours faithfully
Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA)
Mb: 09818089660, 08227816731
Web: www.toxicswatch.org


Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister
Shri Beni Prasad Verma, Union Minister of Steel
Shri Anand Sharma, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry
Shri G K Vasan, Union Minister of Shipping
Shri A K Antony, Union Defence Minister
Smt Jayanthi Natrajan, Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Shri Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, Union Minister of State, Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Chairman & Members, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment & Forests
Chairman & Members, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism & Culture
Cabinet Secretary, Government of India
Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Secretary, Union Ministry of Shipping
Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment & Forests
Secretary, Union Ministry of Defence
Secretary, Union Ministry of Steel
Secretary, Union Ministry of Labour
Additional Secretary , Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Special Secretary, Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board
Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry 
Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Additional Secretary, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry
Additional DGFT, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry 
Director General of Shipping & Ex. Officio Additional Secretary, Govt. of India
Shri J P Shukla, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Shipping
Director General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI), Union Ministry of Finance
Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Mumbai
Ms Aditi Das Rout, Director, Union Ministry of Commerce & Industry 
Dr. Manoranjan Hota, Director, HSMD, Union Minister of Environment & Forests
Shri Sanjay Parikh, Lawyer, Supreme Court
Member Secretary, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB)
Chairman, GPCB
Chairman, Gujarat Maritime Board
Shri S K Sharma, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board
Shri C A Joseph, Under Secretary, MF Desk, Union Ministry of Steel

Source: toxics watch. By Gopal Krishna.