WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
The conditions at the shipbreaking yards in Pakistan are dire. As in India and Bangladesh, the yards in Gadani operate directly on the beach without any impermeable and drained working areas to protect the sea and sand from pollution. As there is no infrastructure to deal with hazardous waste in Gadani, dangerous and polluting substances – such as asbestos, PCBs and residue oils – are simply dumped behind the shipbreaking area.
Workers’ health and safety are blatantly ignored in Gadani, and trade unions, such as the IndustriAll-affiliated Pakistan National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), have voiced strong concerns related to the systemic breaches of basic labour rights. Most of the shipbreaking workers in Gadani are migrant workers from the poorest regions of Pakistan.
Following the explosion of 1 November 2016 of the Aces tanker, there has been increased awareness, nationallyand internationally, of the dangers faced by the workers in the shipbreaking yards in Pakistan. In the beginning of 2017, five workers lost their lives in another explosion of a tanker. This led to a moratorium on the import of tankers for 2017 imposed by the government – yet the ban is expected to be lifted already in the spring of 2018, without concrete measures in place to prevent the reoccurrence of these tragedies.
Exactly one year after the catastrophic explosion, workers resumed the breaking of the Aces – and as fate has it – it caught fire again; fortunately, without casualties this time.
Our member organisations have been closely following the government’s promise to make the Gadani shipyards safer for workers. Our member organization Center for the Rule of Law Islamabad (CroLi) has been following the development of stricter laws for the shipbreaking industry. The improvements in the working environment, which have supposedly been put in place and which are the reason why the government is confident that Gadani can now resume breaking tankers, remain vague however, with no infrastructure in place to mechanise this heavy industry.
2017 marked a year of rallies and protests in Pakistan, with NTUF and workers demanding the enforcement of their rights, better labour laws, the use of proper health and safety equipment in the yards and more consideration from the authorities. The Dutch trade union, FNV, has conducted research on the shipbreaking industry in South Asia. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform Board Member, Dr Irfan Khan, has contributed considerably on the Pakistani perspective for the report.
Source: Hellenic shipping news. 20 June 2018