Platform News – Surge of fatal accidents in Chittagong

10 shipbreaking workers killed or severely injured in one month only

 

At least five shipbreaking workers have been killed and five more severely injured in a series of fatal accidents in Bangladesh in one month only. On 23 May, 21-year old Rubel died at Seiko Steel shipbreaking yard when he fell from great heights. He was working without safety equipment. Only six days later, on 29 May, 5 workers were struck by falling steel plates at the same yard which is also referred to as Darussalam or Madina Enterprise. One worker died on the spot, another in hospital. The three remaining workers were severely injured. In a third accident on 5 June at Laskar Shipbreaking, 35-year old Babul was crushed by a falling steel plate. On 19 June, two workers fell victim to a cylinder blast at Bhatiary Steel shipbreaking yard. One of the workers, Swapan, died in hospital three days later, while Mayching suffers from severe burn wounds in his face and upper body. He is struggling for his life. On 23 June, Samesh suffered severe injuries from a fall at Kabir Steel, a yard that was in the headlines in April after Kabir’s private security personnel shot at workers and locals protesting a fatal accident.

"This horrific series of accidents shows that occupational health and safety measures are absent. We are witnessing the same accidents again and again: workers are not equipped with safety harnesses and fall to their death. Others are crushed under heavy steel parts as a consequence of the dangerous gravity method by which cut steel sections are simply dropped into the sea and on the beach. Gas cylinders cannot be handled safely on the beach and explosions cause death and terrible burn wounds. As long as ships are scrapped on the beaches, workers will continue to die."
Muhammed Ali Shahin - Bangladesh Coordinator - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

As documented by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform before, European-owned vessels are often involved in these accidents. The two accidents at Seiko Steel occurred while the workers dismantled the German-owned vessel Renate N. (IMO 9006851). The demolition of the ship, whose last beneficial owner was the Hamburg-based Neu Seeschifffahrt, cost the life of three workers, and severely injured three additional workers. German shipping companies, except for industry leader Hapag Lloyd, are known to show little interest in the negative environmental and social impact of their shipbreaking practices. They simply sell their end-of-life vessels to beaching yards, including the worst in Bangladesh, with the help of cash buyers.

 

Recently, representatives of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which is implementing a NORAD-funded project in Bangladesh to improve conditions in the shipbreaking yards, presented their work on assessing the social and economic impacts of the industry in Chittagong. Bangladesh members of the Platform assisted the presentation and are concerned that human rights abuses and pollution caused by the shipbreaking industry will be side-lined in the NORAD-funded study.

"Figures on GDP contribution, tax income and the amount of scrap steel imported through shipbreaking have always been used to legitimise this industry in Bangladesh. What is urgently needed is an honest cost-benefit analysis bringing environmental and human costs of beaching into the equation. What benefit remains once we deduct the costs for massive coastal pollution, the threatened livelihoods of local fisher folk, the accumulation of millions of tons of hazardous waste over decades, dead workers whose families are thrown back into extreme poverty, crippled young men without a future, occupational diseases, and illegal child labour keeping young workers out of school while exposing them so severe health risk?"
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

The series of fatal accidents have sparked local resistance. On 10 June, the Shipbreaking Workers Trade Union Forum together with the Bangladesh Institute for Labour Studies (BILS) organised a human chain in Sitakunda, the shipbreaking area, to protest the recent deaths. BILS and the trade unionists met with the victims’ families and visited the graves of workers recently killed in shipbreaking. The Shipbreaking Workers Trade Union Forum also handed over a letter to the president of the Bangladesh Shipbreakers Association (BSBA) demanding proper investigation and the payment of compensation owed to the families of dead workers and those workers who suffered from injuries.

 

The Platform calls on the Government of Bangladesh to investigate these accidents and to sanction yards with regular fatal and severe accidents, such as Kabir Steel and Seiko Steel. Moreover, the Platform demands that European ship owners stop selling their end-of-life vessels to the beaching yards of Bangladesh. It is not acceptable to turn a blind eye on the precarious situation for the sake of maximum profit – European ship owners are fully aware of the dire conditions in Chittagong and more sustainable alternatives to the beaching method exist.

 

© BILS – Trade unionists visit grave of killed worker

 

 

Platform News – Clean Shipping Coalition: Maersk undermines its reputation with plan to circumvent ship recycling law

The Clean Shipping Coalition criticises container ship giant Maersk for its statement that is considers to flag out end-of-life vessels from the Danish or other European registries in order to circumvent the European Ship Recycling Regulation. The Clean Shipping Coalition, a global coalition of nine organisations promoting sustainable shipping, argues that Maersk’s move “seriously undermines its credibility as a responsible ship operator”.

"Maersk is a European company and should abide by European laws. Suggesting that it might use a flag of convenience to escape EU ship breaking rules designed to protect the environment and worker safety is scandalous, and will seriously undermine its credibility as a responsible ship owner and operator."
John Maggs - Senior Policy Advisor at Seas At Risk and President of the Clean Shipping Coalition
"While Maersk supports innovation in reducing air polluting emissions, this move shows a cavalier attitude towards the environmental impacts of dismantling ships in the intertidal zone. Maersk needs to reverse course on practices that it previously denounced and that would never be allowed in Europe."
Sotiris Raptis - Shipping Officer - Transport & Environment

Maersk has recently decided to go back to India to have its old ships scrapped in yards that operate breaking activities in the intertidal zone of the beach. These yards will not be listed by the European Commission as they cannot comply with the requirements under the European Ship Recycling Regulation.

"Maersk has sent a clear signal: either European environmental regulation accommodates for its practices in India, or the world’s largest ship owner will just ignore the Ship Recycling Regulation by flagging out. The threat to resort to non-European flags amounts to blackmailing law makers who seek to ensure that European ship owners have to maintain European standards in their business activities around the world."
Patrizia Heidegger - Executive Director - NGO Shipbreaking Platform

Click here to access the Clean Shipping Coalition's press release.

 

Platform News – Norway’s largest Pension Fund highlights human rights and environmental risks related to shipbreaking in South Asia

KLP, Norway’s largest pension fund [1], commissioned the International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI) [2] to write a report on the human rights and environmental risks related to the current practice of dismantling end-of-life ships on intertidal beaches. The report entitled Shipbreaking practices in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. An investor perspective on the human rights and environmental impacts of beaching was released last week and examines the shipbreaking practices in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan in light of internationally recognised frameworks for responsible business conduct, as well as the practice of the Council on Ethics for the Norwegian Governmental Pension Fund.

 

The report argues that the responsibility of companies operating in the global market place does not stop at its own doorstep, but extends to adverse human rights impacts in the entire value chain. KLP joins a number of other investors and clients of shipping [3] that increasingly raise concerns over the current conditions of the shipbreaking industry in South Asia.

"The dismantling of ships using the ‘beaching’ method as it is practiced on the beaches of South Asia is dangerous for people and the environment."
Jeanett Bergan - Head of responsible investment - KLP

International standards by which corporate responsibility can be measured include the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGP). Companies are required to carry out a risk-based due diligence with respect to the human rights as well as environmental impact of their business activities, including their value chain.

 

In the report’s foreword, CEO of KLP, Håvard Gulbrandsen, states: “We hope that the report can help raise awareness of the severe human and environmental risks beaching can entail for shipping industry companies, their customers, and also for other investors. […] KLP hopes to encourage investors to work together to engage with companies on improving labour and environmental conditions. The shipping industry is and will be an important part of Norwegian investors' portfolios for the foreseeable future. KLP's goal is to work towards a future where responsible shipbreaking is the industry standard.”

 

 

NOTES

 

[1] KLP is Norway's largest life insurance company. Kommunal Landspensjonskasse (KLP) delivers financial and insurance services to the public sector, enterprises associated with the public sector and their employees.

 

[2] International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI) is an independent institute focusing on good governance, peace and conflict, and international law. Their approach to solving global challenges is based on the integration of law and social sciences and on bridging the gap between academia and politics. They provide research, analysis, policy advice, process support and training to clients ranging from private companies and institutions to governments and international organisations.

 

[3] Major companies such as H&M, Tetra Laval, ABB, Philips, Volvo and Volkswagen do not want to be associated with substandard shipbreaking practices in South Asia and have asked their forwarders – the shipping companies they use to transport their goods – to adopt sustainable ship recycling policies. For more information click here.