13 November 2015

Improving working condition of ship breaking yards

With the ship breakers pledging to improve the working environment at the country's shipyards, it is becoming clear - though belatedly -- what clean and hazard-free ship yards mean not only for those working in the yards but also for manifold expansion of the industry. The pledge came at a recent meeting of a team of experts from the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) and NORAD (Norwegian Agency for Development Corporation) with the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association (BSBA).

Concerns voiced over safety and environmental hazards associated with ship breaking in Bangladesh are not new. There are threats, too, from potential sources of supply, such as the Norwegian Ship Owners' Association (NSA), not to allow recycling of their ships in Bangladesh, unless it is done in keeping with the Hong Kong International Convention for 'Safe and Environmentally Sound' recycling of ships.  The Norwegian stand appears to be further toughened by a reported move of the European Union (EU), which accounts for 20 per cent of the total scrap vessels sold around the world, to ban export of scrap ships to Bangladesh and few other neighbouring countries. These, no doubt, are grave signals to reckon with, if the country is to see its ship breaking industry continue and thrive given the prospects. The concerns are not just expressions of anxiety as they used to be in the past, but are now clearly action-driven meant to cause a drastic cut in the availability of scrap vessels to be dismantled for recycling.

Ship breaking, no doubt, is a highly encouraging sector for Bangladesh, estimated to be worth around US$2.0 billion. While it offers employment to around three hundred thousand workers, it has the proven capacity of supporting a vast array of heavy and light engineering industries. Iron rods and billets recycled from ship scraps, considered to be of high quality, meet a major portion of domestic requirement in the construction sector. Old ships meet 80 per cent of the demand for raw materials in the rerolling mills. Experts are of the view that Bangladesh is a unique place for ship-breaking and ship-recycling as nearly all the products available from dismantled ships are being used locally. Moreover, as the advanced countries have given up on ship breaking because of the high cost of labour and accompanying compliance issues, ship breaking has all the prospects to thrive in countries like Bangladesh. It is thus of critical importance for those directly associated with the sector to make sure that the country is well poised to reap the gains from the opportunities offered by it. And this can only be done if the challenges associated with the task are met in a befitting manner.

Of late, however, there has been some noticeable progress in the measures undertaken for ensuring safe working environment of the ship breaking yards as well as for skill enhancement of the workers. The initiatives taken by the Ship Breakers Association have been reinforced by a consortium of the IMO and NORAD, established to bring substantial improvement in these areas. A NORAD-funded project, Safe and Environmentally Sound Ship-recycling in Bangladesh, is also under implementation. For the sector to rise to its expected height, it is extremely important that the concerned quarters, including the government, put in all they can to render it what is actually worth.

Source: the financial express. 1 November 2015

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