22 March 2016

Hurt ship breaking worker dies in Chittagong:

A worker of a Chittagong ship breaking yard, who was injured after falling from a ship while working in the yard on Saturday,died at a clinic in the city on Tuesday.

The deceased was Mohammad Morselin, 20, of Naogaon. He used to work at SL Ship Breaking Yard in Kumira under Sitakundaupazila.

No case was filed till yesterday in this connection, said police.

Source: the daily star. 17 March 2016

17 March 2016

MARAD: Following Maersk's Lead on Ship Recycling

Last week, Maersk announced that it will be working with shipyards in Alang, India, to create responsible recycling programs. I'm disappointed that Maersk vessels will be dismantled in India instead of the United States. At that same time, however, I'm impressed with Maersk's clear ship recycling policy and its plan to implement it. This clarity is something that is sorely lacking in the United States and it's my hope that the U.S. Maritime Administration takes a page from Maersk's playbook.

Ship recycling in the United States is a mess. The Federal Property and Administrative Service Act of 1949 states that the Maritime Administration serves as the government's disposal agent for obsolete government vessels over 1500 gross tons. The law is even referenced on MARAD and the General Services Administration websites. Sadly, GSA ignores it.

Instead, GSA auctions off vessels haphazardly without including MARAD. Last fall, Jon Ottman, a maritime historian who had been working to preserve the former Coast Guard Cutter Storis as a museum ship, questioned GSA about MARAD's role in the sale of the vessel. His question was based on FOIA documents he had received showing that MARAD employees had requested information about the sale but GSA had never responded to them. GSA informed Mr. Ottman last week that it is the agency's practice "to only discuss contracts with the parties of the contract. The contract for the Storis did not include MARAD, so details like the number of offers received, sales price, purchaser, delivery date, etc. would not be discussed with MARAD." Huh?

Mr. Ottman also had the audacity to ask GSA about where the money came from to pay for the STORIS. Per the FOIA documents Mr. Ottman received last fall, the buyer told GSA in 2013 that he was waiting for an international wire to complete the purchase. So of course, Mr. Ottman asked for more information. GSA's February 2016 response is astounding "(a)fter a thorough review of our records, GSA affirms that no additional records exist related to the source of the buyer's money. The payment was made by wire transfer to the Department of Treasury. To make a FOIA request to Treasury please send your request to . . ."

So just to clarify, GSA is auctioning off obsolete government vessels even though that is MARAD's responsibility to perform this task. GSA officials are doing so without checking where the money is coming from. And, there is no indication that GSA feels any remorse for breaking the law.

In December 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General issued a report exposing GSA and MARAD's dysfunctional relationship. It's so bad that that IG actually states that MARAD lacks the statutory authority to make GSA recognize its responsibilities and the February 2016 letter to Mr. Ottman merely reiterates this fact.

The IG report also found that MARAD lacks the policies and procedures for identifying the universe of government-owned vessels for which it has responsibility for disposal. No kidding. GSA has this list and it's not sharing it with MARAD.

The worst part of this story is that it is not GSA who gets penalized. Rather, it's the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, the state maritime schools, and the thousands of maritime historical organizations throughout the country. When MARAD disposes of the vessels, these entities receive a portion of the proceeds. When GSA usurps the process, none of these educational entities receives the funding for which they are eligible under federal law.

That's why I recommend that MARAD take a page from Maersk's playbook and take concise action. MARAD should tell GSA to stand down and let MARAD do its job. This doesn't require statutory authority. Rather, it requires political will, which the agency has. The museums, maritime schools and STORIS vets will support MARAD telling GSA to retire from the field.

MARAD should also comply with the IG's recommendation and identify all of the government vessels that will be declared obsolete in the coming years. The sooner MARAD identifies the Coast Guard; Army Corps of Engineers; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Fish and Wildlife Service; and other agency vessels, the sooner it will be able to develop policies and procedures to dispose of these vessels and disburse the money accumulated from their sale.

Source: maritime-executive. 22 February 2016

GMS calls on industry to support not lambast recycling businesses striving to improve in developing regions:

Dr Anil Sharma, President and CEO of GMS, the world’s largest cash buyer of ships, today called on owners and brokers to support sustainable recycling practices and voiced support for the increased and significant investment in South-East Asian yards. Dr Sharma also criticised proponents of total bans on beaching, stating: “It is just as possible to have environmentally sound and safe beaching practices at some yards in India as it is to have dangerous and hazardous recycling elsewhere”.

Dr Sharma outlined the significant progress being made by yards in India, where the majority of the world’s ship recycling is conducted, towards building a safer and more sustainable future in their yards for workers.

In recent months the first yards in India have been certified as compliant with the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (HKC). In this context Dr Sharma called on the industry to use those yards to support both the progress being made in those businesses and the thousands of families dependent upon them in regions where there are few other opportunities for employment.

Dr Sharma commented: “We are seeing significant growth in demand for HKC compliant recycling from ship owners and the yards are reaping the commercial benefits, while sending a trigger to others. As these yards see growth for their services based on good health, safety and environmental practices, the other yards are starting to realise that the world is changing and they have to look to operate in line with HKC compliance, as well as ISO and OSHSAS certification standards in order to boost their business and keep up with changing times.

“However, it is crucial that the yards and the industry as a whole receive support for these facilities and their further development from shipowners throughout the world. We urge shipowners to take advantage of sustainable recycling services and make choosing sustainable yards part of their standard business practices.

“One of the most significant challenges facing the ship recycling sector is the level of focus being placed on what is wrong with the current process, rather than what can be done to invest in and improve more yards. We must all appreciate that ship recycling is not only a vital stage in the lifecycle of a vessel, but also a vital market for those that directly and indirectly depend upon it.”

CSR and sustainability is embedded in the values and culture of GMS and it has committed significant monetary and human resource to a landmark, and industry-first Safe and Responsible Ship Recycling Program. In addition, its industry leading ‘Green Team’ are primed to provide an additional level of oversight and supervision on behalf of its principles to ensure that making the responsible choice is as simple as it is sustainable.

Source: Hellenic shipping news. 24 February 2016

16 March 2016

A toxic ship comes ashore

Passage to India: Horizon Trader, seen here being towed out of Brownsville (Texas), arrived in Alang after sailing unchallenged through the waters of five countries that are party to the Basel Convention.
Passage to India: Horizon Trader, seen here being towed out of Brownsville (Texas), arrived in Alang after sailing unchallenged through the waters of five countries that are party to the Basel Convention. 

Alang in Gujarat may be world famous for its ship-breaking prowess, but vessels built with hazardous material are endangering workers’ lives and the environment

On January 8, an end-of-life ship beached off the coast of Alang, in Bhavnagar district, Gujarat. MV (merchant vessel) Horizon Trader reached Indian waters from the US, through Africa. Like innumerable other ships that have been ripped apart at this ship-breaking yard, Horizon Trader too is meant to be quietly disposed of, sold for scrap, with no trace left save for some oil stains on the beach.

Commissioned in 1972 as a cargo container ship, it is, however, likely to contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) — a persistent organic pollutant that accumulates in soil, water and food webs, in addition to asbestos and other hazardous material.

International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) 2003 guidelines for ship-breaking outline the hazards in detail: “Although many of the hazardous materials used to build a ship — asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), toxic paint such as tributyltin (TBT), and heavy metals — are mostly restricted or banned today, a ship built 20-30 years ago still contains these materials. It also carries hazardous and flammable chemicals used for painting, repair and maintenance etc. Cables and electrical and other control systems contain hazardous material and emit hazardous gases if burned. The paint coat can contaminate air, soil and water when torched or scraped, and is thus hazardous for human beings and the environment.”

So why is a pollutant-laden ship, one that activists have been tracking on its last journey, coming to India to be broken up?

“Ships make a long journey at a huge economic cost. The reason they are willing to incur this cost is to save on the occupational, environment and health costs,” says Krishna Gopal, a member of Toxics Watch Alliance, a watchdog that tracks waste in India.

Horizon Trader arrived after a four-month voyage, towed all the way by another ship, the SS Gauntlet, and tracked globally by activists. The decommissioned vessel was sold for ship-breaking by US shipping company Matson Inc, which had, in turn, bought it from All Star Metals. Based out of Brownsville, Texas, All Star Metals has a recycling facility, where it removed the ship’s PCB-laden electric cables and self-certified that the PCB levels were not hazardous. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chose not to challenge the self-certification and cleared the export to India.

The original memorandum of agreement for the sale of Horizon Trader is with the Basel Action Network (BAN) and it mandates that the buyer should responsibly recycle the vessel in the US.

Ships that have reached the end of their life are governed by the Basel Convention, which regulates the disposal of hazardous waste. India is a signatory and it cannot trade in hazardous waste with countries that are not party to the convention (including the US and Japan). The Horizon Trader sailed unchallenged through the waters of five countries — Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, Namibia and India — that are party to the Basel Convention. BAN did notify each of the countries where the ship docked, but in every case the calls went unheeded.

Activists worry that countries such as the US and Japan, with many ships to scrap and not bound by Basel, are establishing a supply chain for disposal in third-world shipyards.

Dumpyards in demand

According to non-governmental organisation Shipbreaking Platform, Indian shipyards handled 327 of the 1,026 ships dismantled worldwide in 2014; last year, this share fell to 213 out of 791. Steel prices tumbled 40 per cent in 2015, making it uneconomical to scrap ships, especially in the tightly regulated developed world. Alang in India and Chittagong in Bangladesh, alongside shipyards in Pakistan, China and Turkey have expanded their largely unregulated ship-breaking sectors to meet a worldwide demand. “With no investment, the government is earning foreign exchange and we are getting steel out of it,” argues Vidyadhar Rane, g general secretary, Alang Sosiya Ship Recycling and General Workers Association (the sole trade union active in Alang).

The falling steel price has hit the ship-breaking industry as a whole, and fewer than 50 yards are active in Alang today, compared with more than 100 in 2014, according to the Ship Recycling Industries Association India (SRIA). “Chinese steel imports have cost us dearly. We have ships coming to Alang, but we are unable to get good prices for the steel we recover,” says Jivarajbhai R Patel, president of SRIA. As demand plummets back home, Chinese steel is flooding world markets.

At the ship-breaking units, explosions frequently lead to loss of life or limb, and workers battle a range of illnesses after coming in contact with toxic chemicals. In Alang, accidents during ship-breaking left eight workers dead in 2015, while the death toll was 18 in 2014, according to official figures.

“We have been able to get compensation for loss of life, but not for injuries sustained,” says Rane. “For the first time, in 2012, we were able to offer pension to the families of four workers from Piparla village, near Alang, who had died in 2009. For migrant workers, on the other hand, it becomes difficult to trace them once they return home,” he says.

A Supreme Court-appointed committee of technical experts found that the ship-breaking industry had a fatal accident rate six times higher than mining, considered to be the most accident-prone industry. The nearest hospital for Alang is at Bhavnagar, more than 50km away. All that this coastal town with a hazardous livelihood has is the Red Cross Hospital, which sees about 100 patients every day and can treat only minor injuries.

Past studies have documented the plight of migrant workers in South Asian shipyards who work in rags, with the barest minimum of safety equipment, cutting massive hulks of steel and metal into pieces that can be carted away by hand. “We understand that change cannot come in a day, but there must be the will to change; we are pursuing the matter at every level,” says Rane. A worker’s training centre is under construction to spread awareness on safety and health issues.

Gatekeepers to the graveyard

In Alang, various government agencies are entrusted with the task of checking the end-of-life ships, and the Ship Breaking Code 2013 is non-negotiable. “The Gujarat Pollution Control Board, the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and the Customs department have inspected Horizon Trader and found no toxic material,” says Sudhir Chadha, port officer, Gujarat Maritime Board. “Alang has changed a lot and we follow the highest standards of safety here,” he adds.

“We inspected the ship and found that it contained no loose hazardous waste, so as per the Ship Breaking Code we allowed the ship to be beached,” says RR Vyas, regional officer, Gujarat Pollution Control Board. “Any material that forms part of the ship’s structure is not normally considered hazardous,” he contends.

Bhavnagar is the site of at least three landfills that are piling up with waste from the developed world. In a landmark judgement on October 14, 2003, the Supreme Court held that the “right to a healthy environment has been defined as part of the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution.” The court issued notices to State governments, the Central Pollution Control Board and State pollution control boards and set up a high-powered committee to examine in depth all issues relating to hazardous waste and make recommendations.

Dubious callers

Reputed to be the world’s largest ship-breaking yard, Alang has been a graveyard for hundreds of ships. In 2009, the world’s largest ship, the Seawise Giant, was notably scrapped here. Over the years, Alang has made its fair share of negative headlines too. In 2005, the Dutch Environment Minister wrote to her Indian counterpart, A Raja, asking him to deny clearance for dismantling a Dutch fugitive ship, Riky. Raja refused, memorably telling the Dutch minister that ‘a ship sailing on its own power is not waste’.

In 2006, the SC-appointed monitoring committee denied entry to the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau, as the seller had failed to remove the huge amounts of asbestos it contained. It was eventually scrapped in the UK.

The SS Blue Lady in 2006, SS Platinum II in 2010 and the Exxon Valdez in 2014 were brought to India and dismantled, going against the monitoring committee’s strictures.

The Blue Lady got permission to dock at Alang on humanitarian grounds, following claims that it could not be refloated. The SC order specifying that ships must be decontaminated, must present a full inventory and formally notify the importing country prior to arrival was not followed.

The US-origin Platinum II, flying the flag of the Republic of Kiribati, arrived in Indian waters in October 2009 with papers showing that it was owned by Platinum Investment Services of Monrovia, Liberia. The ship’s registration was confirmed as a forgery by the Kiribati government. In India, till date, no one has been held accountable for allowing entry to this dubious ship.

Reinvention pays

The Basel convention, in force since 1992, is a strong framework that can help ensure that India retains its ship-breaking business and, at the same time, safeguards its workers. By ignoring this vital standard, India risks becoming a dumping ground of hazardous waste, seriously endangering the lives of its citizens.

Meanwhile, the Central government in 2013 moved ship-breaking from the ambit of the Steel Ministry to that of the Shipping Ministry. It has also proposed changes to the Ship Breaking Code. In Mundhra, Gujarat, the Adani group is building a new ship-breaking/recycling facility adjacent to its port. The plans mention that the facility would use the airbag method, where ships are carried onshore using inflated airbags and then broken down. This method is safer and less damaging to the environment compared to the open beaching practised at Alang. The project site, however, is surrounded by sensitive ecological zones and wildlife sanctuaries.

On the very day the Horizon Trader beached at Alang, the National Green Tribunal quashed the environmental clearance for the Adani port at Hazira and imposed a 25-crore penalty to restore the damaged environment. The tribunal’s western zone Bench held that the environmental clearance granted to the project by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2013 was “illegal and must be set aside.”

Four shipyards in Alang have taken steps towards safer and greener ship-recycling practices, and they have received approvals from Japan’s classification society ClassNK.

This trying time is an opportunity for Alang to reinvent itself as a safe shipyard and claim an edge over competitors. How it handles the twin challenges of falling steel prices and environmental impact will determine whether the Alang-Sosiya shipyard continues to be a world leader or fades away piece by piece like the ships that come to die here.

Source: BLink. 4 March 2016

Ship recyclers’ revenue slips as scrap-steel prices plunge:

China’s ship-recycling industry is under mounting pressure from ongoing low steel prices and the increasing costs of adopting “greener” vessel-breaking methods, according to senior industry officials.

The latest figures show ship-recycling revenue dropped 15 percent to 3.4 billion yuan ($519 million) in China last year.

But labor and environmental protection costs soared, and the price of scrap plummeteda double-whammy which Wu Jun, vice-president of the China National Ship-recycling Association, said is putting many firms under threat.

Recycled ship parts provide raw materials for infrastructure and capital projects in a number of sectors such as hydropower, bridge and railway construction at home and in other developing economies.

The process starts when scrap-yard owners buy ships from owners.

“China has been cutting its surplus steel capacity, upgrading its industrial structure, and slowing its investment in infrastructure and real estate, and as a result, the need for large amounts of scrap steel is falling fast,” said Wu.

Last year was the fourth consecutive year that the industry has suffered financial losses.

The association’s findings showed ship-recycling companies in China signed contracts with both domestic and foreign shipowners to dismantle 1.63 million displacement tons (or 6.84 million dead weight tons) of scrap vessels in 2015, a 28.7 percent fall on the previous year.

The price of scrap steel was expected to fetch between 1,043 yuan and 1,327 yuan per ton in China in 2015.

The price, however, has dropped to between 900 yuan and 1,000 yuan, as supply and demand fell in many sectors such as automobiles, railway equipment and other manufacturing industries, which provide and use large quantities of scrap.

“The result is, it will be very difficult this year for Chinese ship-breaking yards to sell scrap, even at bargain-basement prices,” Wu said.

“The high prices for both foreign and domestic scrap ships are also cutting the profit margins of Chinese companies, and many have been reporting financial losses for the past three years.”


China’s ship-recycling yards are mainly located in Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong and Guangdong provinces, collectively employing around 120,000 workers, and jobs are now also under threat.

The dropping scrap prices have seen firms storing supplies in increasing amounts, rather than offloading it cheaply to steel plants, said Wu.

Affected by low commodity and crude oil prices, the association said the number of bulk vessel and offshore oil rigs actually being dismantled has grown more than 30 percent in the past year, adding to the oversupply in underpriced scrap.

Commenting on the situation, Zhang Yongfeng, deputy director of the market research office of the Shanghai International Shipping Institute, suggested the government should consider offering more encouraging policies, such as tax cuts or financial help to those buying steel-cutting equipment or materials

Source: Hellenic shipping news. 5 March 2016

Asia Dry Bulk-Capesize rates to remain steady as vessel scrapping, idling increases:

Freight rates for capesize bulk carriers on key Asian routes are likely to remain around current levels as the market has too much tonnage for current cargo volumes, ship brokers said.

“The miners of this world have enough ships (to choose from). Cargo volumes are positive,” a Singapore-based capesize ship broker said on Thursday.

That came as China imported almost 82.2 million tonnes of iron ore in January, up 4.58 percent from a year earlier, data from China’s General Administration of Customs showed.

An increase in the number of vessels sold for scrap and a growing number of idled vessels has had little impact on improving freight rates, the broker added.

Around 30 capesize vessels totalling 4.7 million deadweight tonnes have been sold to ship breakers so far this year, a 99-percent increase on the same period last year, according to data from British shipping services firm Clarkson.

About 70 capesize vessels have been idled or are waiting for cargo in the Pacific, the broker said, up from about 50 at the start of this year.

Owners of dry cargo ships, including capesize vessels typically used to haul iron ore and coal, have been hit by a perfect storm of huge order books and a slowdown in the Chinese economy which has led to a collapse in freight rates and commodity prices.

“Rates for a Australia-China voyage have been trading in a range of between $2.85-$3.15 a tonne (for the last two months) and they will continue to do that,” the broker said.

“I think we need a year of serious pain, bleeding, before there is any potential hope for an improvement in 2017 or 2018,” the Singapore broker said.

“The capesize market remains flat and uninspired,” Norwegian ship broker Fearnley said in a note on Wednesday.

Capesize charter rates for the Western Australia-China route slipped to $2.92 a tonne on Wednesday, down from $3.07 on the same day last week. Rates for the Brazil-China route nudged down to $5.72 per tonne on Wednesday, against $5.81 per tonne a week earlier. Hire rates have fluctuated between $5.30 and $5.80 for around six weeks.

Panamax rates for a North Pacific round-trip voyage climbed to $2,926 per day, up from $2,807 last week. That is the highest since Jan. 8, on stronger cargo volumes, although panamax rates are under pressure, the Fearnley note said.

Freight rates for smaller supramax vessels continued to rise on more chartering enquiries and rates are above $4,000 per day for a voyage hauling coal from Indonesia to India, Fearnley said.
The Baltic Exchange’s main sea freight index rose to 322 on Wednesday compared with 307 last week.

Source: Hellenic shipping news. 26 February 2016

World trade is so bad that cargo ships are being scrapped at double the 1986 record rate:

World trade is as bad as it has been at any point since the global financial crisis in 2008.

The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of how much it costs to transport raw materials, in November dropped below 500 for the first time, and it has kept falling.

The index was as high as 1,222 in August, and it has fallen 84% from a recent peak of 2,330 in late 2013.

The index measures how much it costs to ship dry commodities, meaning raw materials like grain and steel, around the world.

It is frequently used as a so-called canary in the coal mine for the state of the global economy and how well international trade is performing. If the price is low, it suggests trade is slowing.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank led by Amit Mehrotra have been watching the fall closely. The drop has been so bad that ships are being scrapped faster than they are being built. Here are the main points in a recent note (emphasis ours):

  • Total dry bulk capacity declined by almost 1M tons (net) last week as the pace of deliveries slowed and scrapping remained elevated.
  • Around 16 ships were sold for scrap last week totaling 1.6M tons. This more than offset 9 new deliveries, translating to a net reduction of 7 vessels.
  • Last week's scrapping would represent an annualized pace of 11% of installed capacity, which is almost double the all-time high of 6.3% set in 1986.
  • Year-to-date scrapping is up 80% versus same time last year.

It's bad news, as it means that ship owners expect demand for cargo transport to remain weak long into the future. And they're generally very good at predicting trends in global trade.

This graph from Capital Economics shows just how closely the Baltic Dry index tracks world trade volumes.

BDIY vs Trade

Source: business insider. 22 February 2016

Adult and underage workers risk their lives in Bangladesh's rising ship-breaking industry:


In late November, a 52,000-ton barge eased into this ramshackle port on the Bay of Bengal and came to rest on a wide, muddy beach.

After nearly four decades crisscrossing the oceans for an American offshore engineering company, the DB-101 did not come to erect another oil rig or lay miles of undersea pipe.

It came here to die.

For scores of large commercial vessels that reach the end of their seagoing lives each year, the final port of call is Chittagong in southern Bangladesh, home to the world's largest — and least regulated — ship-breaking industry.

Dead tankers, cruise liners, cargo ships and fishing trawlers from around the world molder in the hazy sunshine along a 10-mile stretch of beach. Thousands of laborers, many wearing plastic sandals and street clothes, use blowtorches to cut through the steel and then crank rust-ridden winches to haul the pieces up to dry land to be sold as scrap.

The world disposed of 768 ships last year. In terms of tonnage, a third of that demolition took place in Bangladesh, which surpassed India because of a decline in Indian demand for scrap steel. The two countries and Pakistan account for about 70% of all ship breaking.

Bangladesh's increased market share has raised alarm among environmental and labor activists, as well as United Nations officials, who say the country has not kept pace with industry reforms elsewhere. Despite new laws aimed at making the business cleaner and safer, ships are taken apart here much as they were in the 1980s.

The gently sloping shoreline north of Chittagong allows a practice known as beaching, in which ships are piloted directly onto the sand during high tide. With no safe system to dispose of oil and toxic sludge, their waste continues to pollute the coast.

Training and safety equipment are scant, and dozens of workers are still killed or seriously injured each year in falls, explosions and other accidents. Workers are supposed to be at least 18, but even that basic law is often broken.

"It's a very hard job," said Mohammed Shujan Islam, 17, a migrant worker from northern Bangladesh earning $3 a day to help dismantle the DB-101. "But I do it to help feed my family."

Beaching, in particular, is highly unsafe, because so much of the work has to be done by hand, said Patrizia Heidegger, executive director of Shipbreaking Platform, a Brussels-based advocacy group.

"You're talking about breaking down the largest movable man-made structures on a bed of mud," she said. "You can't use any heavy machinery, you can't use cranes. Workers can't even wear boots because they would disappear in the mud."

At least 16 Bangladeshi workers died and 22 were seriously injured in ship-breaking accidents last year, according to the group. Half the deaths occurred in explosions caused by the gas cylinders attached to blowtorches.

In addition, workers face the long-term health effects of exposure to hazardous substances released when the ships are broken down. Researchers in Taiwan who tracked ship-breaking workers there for more than two decades found elevated rates of liver, lung and other cancers.

The prime suspect, asbestos, litters the beaches in golf-ball-size clumps in Chittagong.

Under fire from international labor and environmental groups, Bangladesh has instituted laws requiring shipyard owners to provide training and safety equipment and ensure the ships are rid of toxic material before arrival. Court orders have twice shut down the yards for noncompliance, only to see them reopen under industry pressure.

Mohammed Zia-ur-Rahman, 25, who came to the yards as a teenager to support his parents and four sisters, blames exposure to ship waste for a steady cough and bumps on his forearms. The blowtorch operator said workers dread stepping into the engine room, where gas often remains trapped inside pipe joints.

"It's the most dangerous place," he said. "Nobody tells us what's inside, but you can feel the toxic smell."

Every inch of the retired ships feeds Bangladesh's developing economy. Their carcasses become scrap metal, often recycled into girders and metal sheets for construction. Loose goods, including bed frames and life jackets, are sold in the markets.

The Mabiya ship-breaking yard where the DB-101 was being dismantled is one of the largest in Chittagong and part of a conglomerate that includes mills that roll scrap metal into steel rebar.

Signs on the whitewashed walls of the low-slung compound say "No Child Labor," and the company website says it is working to meet United Nations standards for responsible ship recycling.

But inside, Monir Sarkar, 16, said there are many workers his age or younger. Most are hired by recruiters, enabling yard owners to remain intentionally ignorant about their legal status.

Asked whether his yard employed children, Mabiya's assistant general manager, Pranoy Das, said, "No, never. Of course, we check these things."

Monir, a slender boy with wide eyes, said no one has asked his age. As the only child of jobless parents, he was prepared to lie when a recruiter came to his poor town in Bogra, in northern Bangladesh, three months ago.

Instead the recruiter simply handed his parents a small advance on his $90 monthly salary, and he was off to Chittagong, where he works 12 to 14 hours a day, returning well after dark to a small red-brick-and-concrete room he shares with three other laborers.

He recalled his first day at the yard in January, when a worker hardly older than him demonstrated how to use a butane cigarette lighter to ignite the blowtorch, then handed him the lighter. He received no other training, he said.

Monir wears safety goggles, gloves and a helmet when working on the DB-101, but still wrestles with fear. "I'm scared every day," he said. "I feel the heat from the blowtorch on my face and body. It's very strong. Anything can happen."

McDermott International Inc., a Houston offshore engineering company that owned the DB-101 until last year, declined to discuss the working conditions or environmental concerns.

"Other than to say we do not condone unsafe, unethical or noncompliant business practices by any person or entity, we are not in a position to comment further on the decisions or operations of unrelated third parties," McDermott spokesman Richard Goins said.

Commercial ships typically operate for 30 years. Once retired, many are sold to cash buyers in Asia and the Middle East, who in turn sell to ship-breaking yards that finance the purchases with high-interest loans. That creates pressure to scrap the vessels quickly, which activists say contributes to accidents.

Some Western shipowners have pledged to ensure their vessels are dismantled in countries with better safety standards. Of the 27 ships that U.S. owners sold for recycling last year, according to Shipbreaking Platform, 21 ended up in Turkey or India, which industry experts say have improved conditions at demolition yards.

"A couple of years ago it was very rare for a shipowner to ask questions about the way his ship would be recycled, but that is not rare anymore," said Nikos Mikelis, former head of pollution prevention at the International Maritime Organization, a U.N. agency.

"I expect in a couple of years to have a viable two-tier market in South Asia: normal recycling and responsible recycling," he said.

In January 2015, Bangladesh began working with the U.N. agency on a detailed project to clean up the ship-breaking industry. The Bangladesh Ship Breakers Assn., an industry group with about 100 member yards, says it supports reforms and has taken steps to improve worker safety, including opening a 250-bed hospital for workers in November.

Mohammad Aslam Chowdhury, the association president, pointed to a slight decline in reported deaths over the last few years. "Accidents are there in any industry in Bangladesh," he said. "Considering the volume of work in ship breaking, the accidents are few."

But the industry is also vulnerable to global shocks. As the demand for scrap metal in China and elsewhere plunges, activists worry that Bangladeshi yards will struggle financially, leaving them less money to implement costly reforms.

Having spent nearly a decade at the yards, Zia-ur-Rahman said he did not expect swift changes.

"My hope is to leave this work and do some safe job, any kind of job," he said. "I don't want to keep doing this."

Source: Los Angeles times. 9 March 2016

Pace of Bulker Scrapping is Faster than Ever Before:

Analysts with Clarksons Research have reported that bulk carrier demolition is heating up to record levels, with owners selling more – and newer – vessels to the scrappers.

By the end of February, 10 million dwt of bulkers with average age of 24 were sold for demolition – a total of 120 vessels, or roughly two per day. The first quarter is well on track to surpass the record of about 11 million dwt scrapped in Q2 2015, Clarksons said, a reflection of the dismal state of the market. Even a few vessels built in the 2000s are getting cut up.

Clarksons compared the current market to past periods of high activity, like the demolition of six percent of the world’s bulker fleet in 1986, five percent in 1998, and - in 2012, the busiest year on record by tonnage – a total of 33 million dwt sent to the breakers, also about five percent.

The analysts count over 100 capes and over 150 panamaxes aged over 20, suggesting that the pace of demolition could continue for some time.

Steel scrap prices as of February 2016 were less than half of the level seen in early 2012, according to SteelBenchmarker, suggesting that owners could be getting less for their aging vessels than they did during the last banner year for shipbreaking. Scrappers are feeling the pinch – with steel prices so low, many Chinese scrapyards are having a hard time reaching the breakeven point or even selling the scrap at all, said Wu Jun, vice-president of the China National Ship-recycling Association.

Rigs are also going to the breakers in record numbers. 44 were scrapped between late 2014 and late 2015, as many as had been cut up in the previous two decades combined. Drillers Ensco said in February that their firm alone had scrapped a dozen, including one drillship. Analysts say that many more have got to go. “There are at least about 100 rigs that need to be taken out from this market,” said Jon Fredrik Muller, senior project manager at oil and gas consultancy Rystad Energy.

Source: maritime-executive. 7 March 2016