Bangladesh has become the top destination for scrapped ships in the world with bringing the highest number of such vessels in the first half of the current year, according to a global coalition.
During the period, a total of 374 ships were broken in the world and some 156 of them were dismantled in Bangladesh causing irreversible damage to both human health and the environment, according to the data released by NGO Shipbreaking Platform (NSP).
NSP is a global coalition of organisations working to reverse the environmental harm and human rights abuses caused by current shipbreaking practices and to ensure the safe and environmentally-sound dismantling of end-of-life ships worldwide.
The number of ship breaking during January to June of 2019 grew by 67.74 per cent from 93 vessels dismantled in Bangladesh in 2018, the data showed.
India imported a total of 116 scrapped ships during the first half of 2019, down from 172 in the January-June period of 2018, according to the data.
Turkey dismantled 47 ships, followed by Pakistan 16, European Union 11 and China 6.
The data also showed that a total of 288 damaged vessels were sold to the beaches of South Asia in the first half of 2019 which was 321 during the same period of last year.
In the first quarter of 2019, US, Saudi Arabian and Singaporean ship owners sold most ships to South Asian yards, followed by Greek and South Korean owners.
Japanese, Saudi Arabian and Greek ship owners sold most ships to South Asian yards, followed by Indonesian and South Korean owners in the second quarter.
All ships sold to Chittagong in Bangladesh, Alang in India and Gadani yards in Pakistan pass via the hands of scrap-dealers, also known as cash buyers that often re-register and re-flag the vessels on its final voyage, according to the Platform.
It said a total of 744 large ocean-going commercial vessels were sold to scrap yards in 2018.
Of these vessels, 518 were broken down on tidal mudflats-Bangladesh (185), India (253) and Pakistan (80), amounting to a record-breaking 90.4 per cent of the gross tonnage dismantled globally.
Terming the current shipbreaking practices in Bangladesh 'dirty and dangerous', the Platform said poor enforcement of national and international environmental and labour laws causes irreparable damage to the environment, workers and local communities.
Between January and March, three workers lost their lives and four were severely injured when breaking ships in Bangladesh, it recorded.
Between April and June, Platform sources recorded three accidents that killed at least five workers on the beach of Chittagong in Bangladesh, raising the total death toll of the shipbreaking industry this year to at least eight workers.
IndustriAll Global Union blamed employers' negligence coupled with poor inspections and inadequate training on safe ship-breaking methods for continuous accidents at the country's ship-breaking yards.
The group in a statement has also blamed a lack of implementation of safety measures by the authorities and workers' inability to get appropriate protective equipment for major causes behind the accidents.
The rights group called upon the Bangladesh authorities to strictly implement the Bangladesh Ship Recycling Act, 2018 to prevent accidents.
The Bangladesh government needs to move faster to ratify and implement the Hong Kong International Convention for the safe and environmentally-sound recycling of ships, it added.
When contacted, Abu Taher, president of Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association, ruled out the allegation of employers' negligence.
There were accidents in other sectors too and the average number of deaths is declining at the yards gradually as they have taken preventive safety measures, he told the FE recently.
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