August 2011 – Update:
Although it looked, at the beginning of this year, as though Bangladesh was heading towards a clear decision as to the future of ship breaking upon its beaches; it was either to happen safely, or not at all. Last month saw an eventful time for the market, with Bangladesh at first re-opening with reinforced rules on vessel access to the beach – hazardous materials were not permitted. This has been turbulent though, with differing news as to whether the yards were open or not, as yard owners awaited an official document from the Supreme Court.
This week, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh has granted an extension of the allowance to import end-of-life vessels for demolishion until early October. This extension comes as the Court is asked to hear the appeal from various campaigners against the functioning yards. Until the Court makes their decision, Bangladesh ship breakers have been given the opportunity to ‘clean up their act’ and improve their health and safety and environmental practices.
This news is yet to have its full impact upon themarket for end of life vessels and scrap steel, as the Ramadan month of fasting is already underway, ship demolition productivity is known to depriciate at this time.
January 2011 -
Over the past few months, the shipping industry and greenpassport.net have been closely following the movements of Chittagong’s ship breaking yards. This heightened interest has developed over the closure of Bangladesh’s ship breaking yards due to lack of health and safety and environmental standards. Earlier this year the Bangladeshi Government issued a decree which stated that no contaminant laden vessel may be imported for breaking on Bangladeshi beaches. On 21st December, it was reported that Bangladesh’s High Court has banned all vessels from being scrapped at its beaches. It further ruled that the local Government must employ a committee to inspect vessels upon entry to Bangladesh for evidence of the presence of hazardous materials.
This move is one element of the current shift in the shipping industry’s views on ship breaking. The dismantling of a disused vessel is not in itself the problem, as this brings affordable steel to countries such as Bangladesh that cannot afford to have it imported. The main issue over ship breaking comes from the lack of legislation and health and safety equipment for the workers that break the ships, as well as the impact on the environment. Officially, in 2009 it has been estimated that 29 people died on site at ship breaking sites, however realistically this statistic is likely to be much higher, due to deaths incurred after workers have been laid off for their injuries, and accounting for the extended latency period of fatal illnesses brought about by hazards such as asbestos, commonly found on vessels.
A watchful eye had already been placed on ship breaking sites with the introduction of the Basel Convention, the Ship Recycling Plan and the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships in 2009. Such legislation proposed that all vessels will be required to hold a ‘Green Passport’ or ‘Inventory of Hazardous Materials’, which would stay with the vessel and be updated throughout its lifespan, detailing all hazardous materials present and removed. This would then be of most use when the vessel came to be recycled, where it would be required for entry onto site.
Although this legislation has not yet come into force, some countries, such as Bangladesh, are beginning to implement the fundamental ideas in preparation for its entry into force. Shipping companies and vessel owners are starting to abide by these new methods, yet many vessels will still contain a great deal of hazardous materials when they are sent for recycling.
However, this transition for Bangladesh has not been all smooth sailing. The decree states that all ships must be clean before entry into Bangladesh waters. There has been differing reports on whether there have or have not been ships entering the Bangladesh beaches for recycling. Saiful Ashraf, an investigator for the Department of Environment (DoE) stated that two recycling yards were set up without the correct procedures and facilities in place, and these yards are now in the process of being sued. According to Mr Ashraf, no yards in Sitakunda have the correct DoE clearance.
The Daily Star/Asia News Network reported on the 3rd December that some yards have now gained clearance from the Department of Environment to recycle ships. However, as these do not contain the correct equipment to dispose of hazardous materials, just why they have been given clearance could be questioned. Jafar Ahmed, director of Chittagong DoE, said they have been visiting the ship-breaking yards and are happy with the progress made so far.
The Daily Star also reported that 16 ships have entered Bangladeshi beaches to be recycled after receiving no objection certificates (NOC) from the shipping department. However, the Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (BELA) have served a legal notice against this action to all the officials involved in issuing the NOCs asking them to take steps so the toxic ships leave the country’s territory immediately.
On 15th December an official order was passed by Bangladesh High Court to stop the issuing of NOCs for vessels coming into Bangladesh for scrapping. The High Court allowed 30 days for the formation of a committee which will inspect whether or not a vessel is contaminated by hazardous materials, and therefore whether it is allowed entry.
Clearly Bangladesh is making great steps towards the safe control of hazards on ships and safety of workers, but this is taking time, and requires the full commitment of shipping companies themselves to comply with Bangladesh’s requests, as well as a huge change to be made to Bangladesh’s ship breaking methods of the past and a large investment into ship recycling with a safe environment for workers.
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