Main Location: Alang-Sosiya
N°. Yards: around 50 active companies, 170 plots
N°. Workers: 10.000, max 40.000 at peak periods
Recycling method: Beaching
The shipbreaking yards in Alang-Sosiya are located in the state of Gujarat around 50 km by road from the city of Bhavnagar. They were initially set up in 1983 and stretch on a 10 km long beach with a vast tidal range. Alang-Sosiya is the world’s largest shipbreaking site. The Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB), a public body running all ports in Gujarat, regulates the shipbreaking yards in Alang-Sosiya. The GMB rents out shipbreaking plots to the shipbreakers on a 10-year lease basis.
Most of the workers are migrant workers coming from poorer, less industrialized areas in India such as Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar. Many go back to their villages for three to four months a year, usually during the monsoon season, to work in agriculture. The number of workers in Alang-Sosiya also fluctuates as there are not always many vessels to break.
Abysmal working conditions and pollution in Alang-Sosiya were first documented by Greenpeace in 1998. Following actions by NGOs, the Supreme Court issued several rulings demanding the improvement of the industry in order to bring it in line with national and international requirements for safe working conditions, environmental protection and waste trade laws. The GMB was forced to set up a waste reception facility, and the Government responded with the adoption of a Ship Recycling Code in 2013. Workers now also receive a very basic training. Still, the working and living conditions in Alang-Sosiya, as well as the environmental protection standards, remain inadequate for the heavy and hazardous industry ship recycling is. Transparency within the industry is sorely absent as permission to access the site remains impossible to obtain for independent journalists, scientists and civil society. The Platform was refused access to the Alang-Sosiya shipbreaking area by the GMB in October 2017.
According to local sources, at least 9 workers died at the yards in 2018. According to research by Toxics Watch Alliance, at least 434 people have died in Indian shipbreaking yards between 1991 and 2012. The exact number of fatalities is not available - serious injuries are moreover rarely recorded, and occupational diseases, such as cancer, respiratory and skin diseases, are not documented at all. The Indian Supreme Court was alarmed when it compared the incidence of fatal accidents in shipbreaking (2 per 1.000 workers) with the situation in mining, which is considered to be the most accident-prone industry (0.34 per 1.000 workers). Still, no yard owner has ever been held responsible for the death of a worker.
In 2015, four yards in Alang-Sosiya received a so-called “Statement of Compliance (SoC) with the Hong Kong Convention”. Today, more than 90 yards in Alang-Sosiya are in possession of a Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention. The proliferated hand-out of these statements is a clear attempt by the industry to greenwash beaching. Whilst some yards have cemented the dry beach area where secondary cutting is conducted, installed drainage systems and improved their hazardous waste storage procedures, concerns persist related to the continued primary cutting on unprotected tidal mudflats; the lack of proper accommodation and medical facilities for workers; and poor downstream waste management. Asbestos contaminated materials are for example resold on the second hand market in India and there is currently no proper disposal site for Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs).
Some of the yards in Alang-Sosiya have applied to be included in the EU List of approved ship recycling facilities. To comply with European requirements, yards need to prove that they are able to contain pollutants and ensure safe working conditions as well as the environmentally sound management of all wastes derived from the recycling activities. Facilities that operate on tidal mudflats, as all yards in Alang-Sosiya do, are thus not expected to make it on the EU List.