10 Apr 2012 10:00
Ship-breaking is known as the breaking or recirculation of old ships for financial return. Old ships are sold so that the valuable steel can be reused. About 95 percent of a ship’s mass can be recycled.
Until the 1960s, ship-breaking was concentrated in western countries like the United States, Germany, United Kingdom or Italy. From the early 1980s, the majority of the world’s vessels taken out of service were sent to India, China, Pakistan or Bangladesh.
The workers at the ship-breaking yards in Sitakund, situated north of Chittagong in the Bay of Bengal, face the toughest working conditions of the whole country. Extremely hard labour, fatal working incidents, the exposure of abestos and toxic waste are among the deadly threats to those working in the ship-dismantling industry. Every step could be their last. Far away from their villages, the workers seldom see their families. They do all of this for only $1-3 per day.
Risky working conditions, environmental pollution and the adoption of child labor in the ship-breaking industry have drawn international attention on Bangladesh’s ship-dismantling. Changes occured but are far from international standards.
Over 100,000 workers are employed at ship breaking yards worldwide. It is estimated that some 50,000 people are directly employed in the ship-breaking industry in Bangladesh.
Local organisations in Bangladesh estimate that some 1,000-2,000 workers have died in the last 30 years, and many more have suffered serious injuries.
The ship breaking industry in Bangladesh is estimated worth an annual turn over of around 1.5 billion dollars.
Today access to the ship-breaking yards is very limited. Journalists and photographers, who covered grievance in the area, aren’t welcome anymore. The people of Bangladesh are aware of the problems and willing to change the situation.
The Labor Law Act 2006 has improved conditons on health, safety, working hours and compensation – but due to lack of political will and resources change is still not on the way.