ANOTHER major accident happened in a Chittagong shipbreaking yard in Bangladesh last week, this time killing three workers.
This latest accident took place on Tuesday, 20th October in S. R. Corporation, one of the major shipbreaking companies in Bangladesh. In the process of dismantling a ship, the S. R. Corporation workers were cutting a gas cylinder when it exploded. The injured workers were sent to the nearby hospital for treatment but doctors could not save their lives as they were all severely burned.
The names of the workers who died were Rusel, Kairul and Aminul – all three were employed as gas cutters.
IndustriALL Global Union campaigns to clean up this industry, which it describes as ‘the world’s most dangerous to work in’. IndustriALL director for the shipbuilding and shipbreaking sector, Kan Matsuzaki said: ‘Every occupational death is avoidable. And every time a shipbreaking worker is killed at work it strengthens our resolve to campaign for the ratification of the Hong Kong Convention. When we succeed in making that resolution a reality, the lives of workers in the world’s most dangerous job will change.’
BMF (Bangladesh Metalworkers’ Federation) and BML (Bangladesh Metalworkers’ League), have taken up the issue with the employer and local authority to ensure that the families of the deceased workers get an adequate compensation. Only last month, 5th September, four workers were killed following a gas cylinder explosion in the Shital Shipbreaking yard in Chittagong.
Such deadly accidents are the result of a continued lack of proper procedures, inadequate infrastructure, insufficient training and no compliance with safety norms. The 5th September deadly accident at the Shital yard in Chittagong underlined the importance of the global campaign for ratification of the Hong Kong Convention, aimed at making perilous shipbreaking jobs safer, insisted IndustriALL.
In the September 5th accident a gas cylinder exploded killing four and injuring a further four members of the BMF. The injured workers suffered severe and life threatening burns. The accident occurred while the eight shipbreakers were getting ready for work. The names of the killed workers were Khokon, Moksedul, Alamin and Shajahan.
Following that deadly accident, the BMF and the Shipbreaking Platform assembled on 10 September to demand action and change from the industry employers, conducting a human chain and protesting over the shocking working conditions in the industry in Bangladesh. On 14 September the BMF again formed a human chain, demanding proper safety provisions at the Shital yard.
BMF is also working to ensure proper compensation is paid to the families of the killed and injured workers. At the time of the accident, the Shital shipbreaking yard had two ships docked for dismantling, one from Russia and one from Greece.
The Bangladeshi Shipbreaking Platform reports that in 2015 alone 12 shipbreaking workers have died on the job, and 17 more have been severely injured in the country’s ship yards. IndustriALL’s Kan Matsuzaki stated: ‘The IndustriALL affiliates in this sector are taking action as part of our campaign for ratification of the Hong Kong Convention.
‘Over the last three weeks major trade unions in Japan, Germany, Australia and Denmark have reasserted their demand for their governments to ratify this international convention that will secure health & safety and save the workers’ lives.’
• Trade unions of the shipbuilding and shipbreaking industries representing members in 19 countries, meeting at the IndustriALL Global Union World Conference on Shipbuilding-Shipbreaking in Huis Ten Bosch/Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan on 10-11 November 2014 approved the following resolution demanding that all the major shipbuilding, shipbreaking and shipping states expedite ratification of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Hong Kong Convention.
‘Noting that: ‘Shipbreaking activities pose an enormous threat to the health and safety of the workers involved, and also to the marine environment surrounding the yards. Besides the high risk of industrial accidents, toxic substances such as oils, asbestos, and PCBs affect the health of workers who are not protected by appropriate control measures or protective equipment and also affect the surrounding environment and ecosystems.
‘Instruments already exist that apply to shipbreaking, with particular but not exclusive mention to the Basel Convention Technical Guidelines for the Environmentally Sound Management of the Full and Partial dismantling of ships (2003), the International Labour Organisation (ILO) guidelines on Safety and Health in Shipbreaking: Guidelines for Asian countries and Turkey; the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on Ship Recycling (2013); and other relevant international standards on health, safety, and social and environmental protection.
‘The Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships (the Hong Kong Convention) was adopted in May 2009, aiming at ensuring that ships, when being recycled after reaching the end of their operational lives, do not pose any unnecessary risks to human health, safety and to the environment.
‘The convention will enter into force 24 months after ratification by 15 States, representing 40 per cent of world merchant shipping by gross tonnage, combined maximum annual ship recycling volume not less than 3 per cent of their combined tonnage. Five years have already passed since its adoption; however, the convention has been ratified by only three countries as of today, and shamefully, many of the major shipbuilding, shipbreaking and shipping states have not signed yet.
‘Meanwhile, every year, hundreds of shipbreaking workers lose their lives facing serious occupational accidents in the shipbreaking yards of the South Asia region. The incidence of occupational diseases is largely unknown but believed to be extremely high. It is only a dream for most workers to live or survive until the age of 60. Therefore it is resolved that: Delegates urge their governments to observe and comply with all relevant existing international regulations and standards, including but not limited to those of the Basel Convention, the ILO, and the EU.
‘Delegates of the IndustriALL Global Union World Conference on Shipbuilding-Shipbreaking urge those major shipbuilding, shipbreaking and shipping states that have not yet ratified the Hong Kong Convention to expedite ratification of the Convention. Delegates strengthen their union’s activities to demand that their governments ratify the Hong Kong Convention and contribute to the development of an effective solution to the issue of shipbreaking.’