Home / This Week / Cover Stories / Bangladesh takes positive steps for ship recycling

Bangladesh takes positive steps for ship recycling

Bangladesh is one the world’s top four ship recycling countries by capacity. Bangladesh, China, India and Pakistan account for 94.9 percent of known ship recycling in the world. The biggest is at the Bangladeshi port city of Chittagong, which recycled 230 ships last year. The industry employs hundreds of thousands of people, often poor rural migrants, and pumps millions into local economies. Bangladesh gets 60 percent of its steel supply from the rusting hulks, Pakistan at least 15 percent and India 5-6 percent.

Ship recycling industry in Bangladesh has received considerable attention via providing raw materials to steel industry, shipbuilding industry and some other industries in Bangladesh. Bangladesh derives 80-90 percent of its steel from end-of-life ships. Ship-breaking industries generate a number of employment opportunities for Bangladesh.

Chittagong ship recycling yards have been criticized in the past for unmanageable working conditions. Bangladesh has passed a bill to improve working conditions in shipbreaking in a bid to further boost Bangladeshi ship recycling industry. The parliament passed the Bangladesh Ship Recycling Bill 2018, keeping a provision of tougher punishment for violations of the law. Owners are obliged to issue life insurance for all employees and be fully aligned with the relevant global laws and conventions local media reported.

The bill sets up a zone in Chittagong for the ship recycling industry under Section 4 of the draft law, for owners to conduct their activities. The establishment of a yard without permission or outside the zone or importing ships without a no-objection certificate (NOC) could bring punishment of maximum two years in jail or a fine from taka 10 lakh to taka 30 lakh or both.

The punishment for availing the facility through fake certificate is maximum five years’ jail or a fine of taka 5 lakh-taka 20 lakh.

The law foresees the constitution of a 14-member ‘Board’, including the secretary of the Ministry of Industries as chairman, with the task to oversee ship recycling activities. The tenure of each member will be three years after their appointment.

Bangladesh government will set up Treatment Storage and Disposal Facility (TSDF) within three years after enacting the law for the management of wastage produced from the ship recycling.

NGO Shipbreaking Platform reports at least 14 cases of fatality and serious injury in the first three quarters of 2017 alone. IMO has implemented a project to enhance safe and environmentally sound ship recycling in Bangladesh.

To another report, Shipbreaking Platform, a coalition of environmental, human rights and labor groups, indicate German companies were the worst culprits in the first half of 2017, followed by Singapore, Greece and South Korea. About 800 large ships are sold for scrap in Asia each year, the group estimates.

Yards in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are believed to account for as much as 80 percent of the global breaking and recycling market for ocean-going vessels, with a further 15 percent occurring in China and Turkey.

European and North American ship brokers use the yards because they can reap an extra US$1 million or more by exploiting Asia’s lower costs and — perhaps most importantly its lax environmental standards.

Ships are usually loaded with toxic metals that would require reprocessing in Western ports, but are simply piled up on beaches by workers on Asian yards. Children as young as 14 work in the breaking yards and there are few safety precautions.

Labor unions say that at last 125 people have been killed in Chittagong in the past decade and there have been similar fatality levels at other yards. An unknown number have been injured. Ship building industry in Bangladesh spreading rapidly where workers from all ages work together, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on April 28, 2016.

The working condition here is serious and not suitable for any children. Conditions are hot and often dangerous. Even workers do not use minimum safety guard. Therefore accidents happen very frequently. Children who work here are growing up without education which has been leading them towards uncertain future. The reason of child labor in such dangerous working condition is cheap labor and poverty.

According to child labor law of Bangladesh it is prohibited in serious working condition but there is no implication of it. The current socio-economic condition of Bangladesh is unable to solve child labor problem right away.


It’s not possible to banned child labor completely at any time. The thing is these children’s families are in need. They don’t have any other options other than work for money and help their family. If government really going to banned child labor in the country, the situation would be worse than this.

Their living of standards even goes down more. So before banning child labor, government needs to develop economic condition of their family first. Efforts are now being made to hold ship owners and managers responsible for the accidents. Scrapping hazardous vessels is prohibited under the terms of the 2009 Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships.

The edict has not been enforced, however, because it lacks the required signatures representing 40 percent of merchant shipping.

In December, the Peace Happiness and Prosperity (PHP) breaking yard in Chittagong was certified by RINA (Registro Italiano Navale), an Italian merchant marine classification society, as having met international standards of compliance for shipping.

Shipbreaking Platform says it clearly has few environmental safeguards, with toxic materials released into the sea. (PHP could not be reached for comment on the allegation.)

There was a time the beach at the shipwrecking places in Chittagong were white and clean. Now Chittagong is partially soaked with oil and toxic mud. European Commission regulations banning the export of hazardous waste have also had limited success in stopping ship exports.

On January 17, British authorities prevented three oil rigs from being shipped from Cromarty Firth in Scotland due to concerns that they might be heading for South Asia. Shipbreaking Platform said that 49 of the vessels sent to Asia in the second quarter of 2017, or about one-third, had their registrations altered only weeks before they reached the beach breaking yards.

Their new “flags” were countries outside the conventions that are not typically used by commercial shipping: Togo, Comoros, Palau, St Kitts & Nevis, Djibouti and Niue were among the most popular.

The company that did the most switching was the Singaporean Continental Shipping Line, which gave six Liberian-flagged vessels new registrations. Quantum Pacific, also based in Singapore, changed flags on four scrapped ships.

The country with the worst dumping record in last year’s second quarter was Germany, which beached 16 vessels. Singapore sent 12 ships to Asian beaches, and there were nine from Greece and eight from South Korea.

According to the latest report released by PwC, the number of Chinese enterprises’ overseas M&A has increased to 135 in 2017, compared to 22 in 2016.

The total amount of deals has jumped more than 10 times to US$21.4 billion in 2017, from US$2 billion in 2016.

The report also said high-tech and high-standard industrial products remain to be the most active areas for Chinese enterprises to invest abroad, followed by consumer goods.

This phenomenon is in line with China’s industrial upgrading and its macro strategy to acquire overseas advanced technologies, brands and consumer goods.

The ship breaking yards are mostly located in the Sitakunda area in Chittagong, but the workplace environment is alleged to be unsafe.

Check Also

Ports and shipping: a historical perspective

Ports and shipping: a historical perspective

The history of use of waterborne vessels is as old as humans. Research has found …

Leave a Reply