Asia News, September 28, 2023 (excerpts)
A Human Rights Watch report highlights the conditions young workers face scrapping ships. Scrapping yards employ children as young as 13, violating international standards, polluting the sea, and covering beaches with toxic waste.
According to the human rights advocacy group, shipping companies are circumventing international regulations that ban exporting ships to shipyards that lack proper safety standards.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) views shipbreaking as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
In Bangladesh, the life expectancy of men working in the shipbreaking industry is 20 years below average. A 2019 survey found that children make up 13 per cent of the workforce. Most workers interviewed said they started working at the age of 13.
Bangladesh is one of the main destinations for shipbreaking. Since 2020, some 20,000 workers have dismantled more than 520 ships, more tonnage than any other country. Ships sail full steam into the beach during high tide to be dismantled directly on the sand rather than on a pier or platform.
The worksite itself is full of hazards and toxic waste is dumped directly into the sand and sea. Toxic materials from the vessels, including asbestos, is dumped on the ground and in the sea, handled without protective equipment and in some cases sold in the second-hand market, impacting the health in surrounding communities.
EU shipping companies are required to dispose of EU-flagged ships in a shipyard approved by the European Union, but to circumvent the law many buy “flag of convenience” in other countries.