Unregulated shipbreaking industry | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 17, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 17, 2010

Editorial

Unregulated shipbreaking industry

Govt guidelines must be in conformity with Supreme Court's order

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No sooner than a report front paged recently in The Daily Star highlighted the lax safety measure in the ship-breaking yards than there was an incident of fire in one of these in Sitakund the very next day in which seven workers suffered burn injuries.
The statistics of death and injuries over the last 20 years in this industry, and the facts related to the ship that was being scrapped in this instance, and the shipyard that was undertaking the job, the dubious ways that orders of the courts have been violated, speak volumes about the way the industry is being run and managed.
The ship in question was imported last December in violation of the Supreme Court's order that prohibits import of ships which contain hazardous material including ships that has inbuilt toxic substance. Not only that, the department of explosives has given the yard owner safety clearance without conducting safety inspection of the ship. And to top it all the ship breaking yard does not have DoE clearance; it has been operating without one for many years. And there is contradiction in the statements of the owner and the DoE regarding procurement of, and submission of application for clearance, which suggests that at least one of them is not telling the truth. What does one therefore make of the prevailing situation?
The matter has been occupying our attention for a long time now, particularly because operation of the scrapping yards has serious consequences. While forested areas have been denuded to set up these, the working conditions as well the contaminated ships-for-scrap pose enormous threat to the environment and people living in proximity of the scrapping yards.
In this context it is the position of the Ministry of Environment on the pre-entry clearance certificate that we are rather surprised at. It is seemingly in favour of not having a strong safeguard against importing ships that have inbuilt toxic substance as it has advised the commerce ministry to amend its policy that it had formulated in line with the court's directive. All because the ministry of environment doesn't want that the yards should be shut down.
We repeat what we have said so many times in the past in this regard. The responsibility of ensuring proper development of the industry, keeping the safety and security of the workers and environmental safety in focus, devolves on the ship breakers, the shipbuilders, the ship owners, the DoE and most of all, the government. The industry cannot be allowed to be a provider as well as a destroyer at the same time.
We are happy to note that the government is in the process of formulating a guideline but that should not, under any circumstances, circumvent the Supreme Court's directive nor be oblivious of the hazards posed to the workers and to the environment.

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