Of these ships, 469 large tankers, bulkers, floating platforms, cargo- and passenger ships were broken down on only three beaches in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, amounting to near 90% of the gross tonnage dismantled globally.
Last year, at least 26 workers lost their lives when breaking apart the global fleet. The Platform documented accidents that killed 24 workers on the beach of Chattogram (formerly known as Chittagong), making 2019 the worst year for Bangladeshi yards in terms of fatalities since 2010.
What is more, at least another 34 workers were severely injured. While the total death toll in Indian yards is unknown, local sources and media confirmed at least two deaths at shipbreaking yards that claim to be operating safely, but have failed to be included in the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities.
Bangladesh remains the favoured dumping ground for end-of-life ships laden with toxics. There is wide-spread knowledge of the irreparable damage caused by dirty and dangerous practices on tidal mudflats, yet profit is the only decisive factor for most ship owners when selling their vessels for breaking
Ingvild Jenssen – Executive Director and Founder – NGO Shipbreaking Platform, stated.
Credit: NGO Shipbreaking Platform
In addition, the risk of developing a fatal occupational disease is high as workers lack proper respiratory equipment to protect them against the many toxic fumes and materials released during the cutting and cleaning operations.
In most cases, hazardous substances are not even identified and therefore harm workers unknowingly. Some cancers, including asbestos-related mesothelioma, will only develop 15 to 20 years after exposure, and cause many more casualties among former shipbreaking workers.
What is more, the shipbreaking beaches in South Asia are toxic hotspots, says the NGO. Reckless breaking operations take place on tidal mudflats where it is impossible to contain pollutants. Oil spills, sludge and heavy metal contaminated debris cause irreparable damage to the coastal environment as well as the local communities that depend upon them.
As for the top dumping countries, ship owners from Asia, Europe and North America top the list of dumpers that sell vessels for dirty and dangerous breaking to the beaches of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Specifically, the United Arab Emirates and Greece sit in the first and second place.