Ship breaking in Bangladesh
Ship building is relatively new phenomena in Bangladesh, but ship breaking is older and it started when rod making factories required cheap raw materials for their products. But there should be some law and guidelines.
Ship breaking law
With a view to making the ship dismantling industry environmentally friendly, regulatory guidelines –2011 was supposed to be declared on the 14th December 2011; as it is the deadline fixed by the high court. Ship dismantling is locally known as ship breaking industry. The guidelines have some contradictory sections, which are declined by the commerce ministry, as they feel it would go against the interests of the investors! Ships are normally scrapped ships that are non-operational and Bangladeshi companies buy them for dismantling or breaking.
The reason is mainly to get the raw materials or metals for re-rolling industry who make rods and angle bars to be used for house building industry. At present Bangladesh has a demand for 50,0000 tons of metal / steels, but we have no iron ore sources or mines, which make ship scrapping is the inevitable and important source of raw materials. Ship breaking industry is called the floating iron ore mine; and steel mills get 85% of its raw materials from here. In other words, we could also save 2500MW electricity power annually due to this metals, as cold rolls (Raw material for iron/steel making factory) also needs high powered electric burners.
Bad side is it pollutes the sea, oceanic ecology, fisheries as planktons are destroyed and poisonous substances pollute water, beaches and bio-diversity affected badly. Time has come to assess the cost benefit of the industry. Environmentally conscious groups always advocating against the industry, as it claims for a small benefits cost is high in the long term, since other alternative sources of raw materials are still available in the country. Meanwhile, the industry is not a small fry, big fishes are involved with it along with political stakeholders that are also notably mentioned. Anyway, if the tannery, transportation, brick fields, and dying industries are blamed for their polluting roles, why not ship breaking industry could be drag in the same line of fire!- Environmentalists opine.
Again to consider the national interest ship breaking industry cannot be stopped rather efforts are being made to make it environmentally friendly. Politically the issue is sensitive, as the industry is a high stake dealing, and no one dare saying anything against it openly, ministry also reckon that it wants no adverse relationship with them, rather logical and practical matters are focused in the coming rules and regulations, which also advises punitive measures against the violators.
Another issue is ship breaking accidents that happens every now and then while dismantling, due to mishandling of processes and not knowing if any flammable chemicals are stocked inside or the flaming materials or conditions that ill trained welding mechanics never know, as a result many explosions have killed so many workers in the history of ship breaking. This is so, as proprietors are looking for cheaper ways to accomplish the job, by the way, families, rather than public companies run the majority of firms. Again the victims of accidents in most of the time are not reported to police (or polices have illicit link ups with the industry- cynic comment!) for record, so actual number of victims would be never known, nor the right compensations are paid to the workers family. So, in the one hand environment or macro level negative impacts we are getting on the other hand, micro level or individual level workers are not getting any good return out of it nor their rights are protected by the industry owners. Should government avoid its role in it? Obviously not, that morality presses the government to oblige to the workers’ rights and environmental impacts.
The owners should insure workers life, as they are the instruments in the profit making process. Secondly, workers are not having regular or permanent jobs, they are all temporary workers, it should be changed, all the other Human Resource management issues should be applied in this sector too, like, provident funds, gratuity, medical facilities, good working environment for working, and other fair conditions.
The industry people comment that some quarters are being busy to discredit and degrade the sector due to some unknown reasons, the look out toward this industry needed to be changed in the first place. They virtually stand against the new coming regulation that they furiously remarked as the ship breakers are big investors – no one should deny their interests too. They got the government as playing a role of opposition party- like government vs. ship breakers- who are demanding for more relaxing regulations for them to abide by.
Actually the new regulation emphasizes on – workers professional security, risk management process, and above all the environmental safety. This is agreed by all that the industry is bright industry to contribute to the economy; it has many opportunities to grow. At present government is getting 1000,00,00,000 Taka (US$1=75 Taka) per annum from ship breaking sector, by moderating and upgrading the industry the revenue could be many fold higher, experts think. Ministry of industry rather be watchful lest government and ship breakers become foe rather than friends. Many good things could turn bad due to lack of foresightness, and many evil things could turn to be good if proper measures are taken timely- evidences needed?