Where the world's ships go to die

By | May 28, 2012

The beaches off the Bangladeshi city of Chittagong form one of the world’s largest graveyards for ships.

The government of Bangladesh does not allow filming in these huge ship-breaking yards, so the BBC’s Simon Reeve and his guide Morshed Ali Khan took a boat trip to view one of the most spectacular sights of the Indian Ocean.

Ship-breaking is dirty and dangerous work and scores of workers are believed to be killed here annually, but for the owners of the yards it is a lucrative business. …

via BBC News – Where the world’s ships go to die.

The Probo Koala, now re-named the Gulf Jash, a ship which caused an environmental and human rights disaster in the Ivory Coast in August 2006, has been sold for scrapping on the infamous ship breaking beaches of Chittagong in Bangladesh. Environmental, human rights and labour rights organisations represented by the NGO Shipbreaking Platform fear that the Probo Koala will be allowed to perpetuate its deadly legacy by being broken down in unsafe and environmentally damaging conditions. The NGOs call on the government of Bangladesh to refuse the import of the death ship and say no to illegal toxic waste trade. It is expected that the Probo Koala contains many tonnes of hazardous asbestos, PCBs, toxic paints, fuel and chemical residues. Currently the ship is located in Vietnam.

In 2006, the transnational company Trafigura used the Probo Koala to illegally dump 528 tonnes of toxic waste in Abidjan, the largest city of the Ivory Coast, causing the death of 16 people according to the Ivorian authorities [1]. Global Marketing Systems (GMS), a US company specialised in the brokering of vessels for demolition, confirmed it had bought the ship last week, but had so far not disclosed its final destination [2].  However its website listed that one of the advantages of utilising Bangladesh as a destination for end-of-life vessels is the lack of requirements for testing for gas residues within the ship [3]. These gases might ignite and explode when a shipbreaking worker uses a cutting torch.

The Probo Koala already is a symbol of an unaccountable and irresponsible shipping industry,” said Bangladeshi lawyer and director of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), Rizwana Hasan. “We demand that this ship and all others like her, carrying toxic substances and intent on exploiting yet again the population and environment in the developing world, be barred from entry into Bangladesh.”

Shipbreaking as is done on the beaches of South Asia is one of the world’s most dangerous and polluting enterprises [4]. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has, through its member organisation BELA, successfully petitioned in the Bangladeshi courts to stop the import of toxic ships for breaking, and safer methods of breaking ships already exist today. However, due to intense political and economic pressure from the shipbreaking and shipping industry, the court ruling has temporarily been lifted pending further decisions. Unless and until the High Court decision is allowed to stand, toxic ships will continue to pile up on the beaches of Bangladesh where they are broken apart by hand exposing workers to explosions and occupational disease, while contaminating the coastal environment. …

via shipbreakingplatform.org

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