Bangladesh has become the top dumping ground for discarded ships in the world with the country dismantling the highest number of vessels in the first half (January-June) of the current year, according to a report of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, a leading NGO coalition campaigning for clean and safe ship recycling.
The latest figures released by the platform showed that there were a total of 374 ships broken in the first half of 2019 and of those, highest 156 vessels were broken in Bangladesh causing irreversible damages to both human health and the environment.
The data showed that the number of ships broken in the first half of 2019 grew by 67.74 per cent from 93 vessels dismantled in the same period of last year.
Between January and June, at least eight workers lost their lives when breaking ships on the beach of Chattogram in Bangladesh.
‘Accident records in Gadani, Pakistan and in Alang, India, are extremely difficult to obtain. The local government in Alang does not publish any official statistics, and it systematically refuses to provide civil society organisations and independent journalists access to the yards,’ the report said.
The Shipbreaking Platform data showed that India had scrapped highest 172 ships in January-June of 2018 but this year the number decreased to 116.
A total of 16 ships were broken in Pakistan in the first half of the current year while the number was 56 in the same period of 2018.
The data showed that 288 discarded vessels were sold to yards on the beaches of South Asia in the first half of 2019 and the number was 321 in the same period of last year.
The platform termed the current shipbreaking practices in Bangladesh dirty and dangerous and said that poor enforcement of national and international environmental and labour laws caused irreparable damages to the environment, workers and local communities.
In the first half of 2019, Japanese, Saudi Arabian and Greek ship owners sold the most ships to South Asian yards, followed by Indonesian and South Korean owners.
All ships sold to yards in Chattogram in Bangladesh, Alang in India and Gadani in Pakistan passed via the hands of scrap-dealers, also known as cash buyers that often re-register and re-flag vessels on their final voyage.
The report said that in Bangladesh, it was exposed that BBC Ship Breaking Company had been fraudulently given the permission by local authorities to wipe out a protected mangrove forest in order to establish a new yard.
Following the filing of a complaint by platform member organisation BELA, the High Court imposed a six months’ stay on the lease contract and asked the local authorities to explain why they blatantly ignored national forest protection laws, it said.
In 2009, a total of 14,000 mangrove trees were illegally cut to expand the dirty and dangerous shipbreaking activities in Chattogram.
Despite a clear order by the High Court in 2010, no trees have been replanted, said the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
Md Abul Kashem, former president of the Association of Ship Recycling in Bangladesh, on Saturday told New Age that 156 discarded vessels might come to the beach of Bangladesh in last six months but it was not possible to dismantle the ships in the period.
Regarding environmental issues, he said, ‘Shipbreaking does not harm environment and what the green campaigners complain about the sector is not correct.’
A few accidents take lives of some workers in the sector every year but accidents take place in all types of industries in the world, Kashem said.
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