• World - Europe
  • Updated: September 28, 2023

European Maritime Firms Accused Of Endangering Lives In Bangladeshi Shipbreaking Yards

European Maritime Firms Accused Of Endangering Lives In Bang

Bangladesh's Sitakunda beaches in the southeast have become a global hub for shipbreaking, with European maritime companies contributing to the industry.

However, these shipbreaking activities have raised concerns about dangerous conditions, pollution, and worker fatalities, as highlighted by Human Rights Watch.

“Companies scrapping ships in Bangladesh’s dangerous and polluting yards are making a profit at the expense of Bangladeshi lives and the environment,” said HRW researcher Julia Bleckner on Thursday.

European shipping companies have sent approximately 520 vessels to Sitakunda's shipbreaking yards since 2020.

Shockingly, thousands of workers labour without adequate protective gear, putting their lives at risk.

“Workers described injuries from falling chunks of steel or being trapped inside a ship when it caught fire or pipes exploded,” HRW said in their report, published jointly with Belgian-based NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

Tragically, since 2019, at least 62 workers have lost their lives due to accidents in Sitakunda's shipbreaking yards, according to the Bangladeshi environmental group Young Power in Social Action.

Two more workers lost their lives just last week in separate incidents when they fell from partially dismantled ships. These incidents underscore the urgent need for improved safety measures in the industry.

While the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association (BSBA) claims that it is taking steps to enhance safety ahead of an upcoming international convention in 2025, concerns remain.

Fazlul Kabir Mintu, coordinator for the Danish-funded Occupational Safety and Security Information Center, points out that yard owners often operate with impunity due to their significant influence in local politics, leading to inadequate attention to worker safety.

Moreover, the presence of asbestos in many ships sent to Sitakunda poses additional health risks. Workers are forced to handle asbestos with their bare hands, despite its association with lung cancer and other deadly diseases. As a result, numerous workers have tested positive for exposure to asbestos, with severe consequences.

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