Shipbreaking has always been a controversial industry, but in 2019, it reached record numbers with more than 600 ships being sold to scrap yards. It used to be considered as a highly mechanized operation, concentrated in industrialized countries. But in order to reduce costs, vessels were sent in the eighties to the scrap yards of India (on Alang Beach), Pakistan, Bangladesh (in Chittagong), etc. where salary, health, safety and working standards are minimal, and workers desperate for work. The positive economic and recycling impacts are then counterbalanced by the Human and Labor rights violations and Environmental pollution happening in those ship breaking yards on Alang beach (India) and in Chittagong (Bangladesh).About the shipbreakers : Bangladesh has the largest shipbreaking area, directly settled on an open beach (no dry dock, as in Alang – India).
Children working barefoot on sheet metal, workers breathing asbestos all day long or risking an explosion from fuel residues on the ships, huge amounts of toxic materials dumped directly to the sea on the open beach, etc. are some examples of the everyday life on the shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh (Chittagong) or in India (Alang Beach).Shipbreaking yards are clearly violating international and national laws (Basel Convention, requirements for environmental clearance, Labour Act, etc.) but western governments which are providing the ships ending their life in those ship graveyards, seem to remain deaf and blind at the time more ships have to be decommissioned in the next years, and the Bangladeshi government is mostly adopting a status quo on such a delicate issue. In this way, a legal battle is now going on thanks to both international and local environmental/social NGOs to contribute implementing rules on how to scrap those ships in a fair way.Of course, the yard owners are aware of this situation, and are carefully keeping the doors of those ships graveyards closed to medias and NGOs. That is explaining the scarcity of photo and video essays on the situation inside the shipbreaking yards.
This long-term work intends to fill this gap. About one hundred thousand workers worldwide are employed in shipbreaking, and thousands of those shipbreakers have already been dying over the last twenty years because of accidents during the ship demolition (excluding the deaths from diseases caused by toxic fumes and materials workers are exposed to all the time). Greenpeace, FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) and the ILO (International Labour Organisation) have been pointing this industry as the deadliest one in the world.