Ship Breaking Industry

Ship Breaking Industry Dismantling of old/scrap ships at break-yard or suitable site under ship recycling facility to recover components/materials for reprocess/re-use including storage and treatment on site with taking care of hazardous materials, known as Ship Recycling (SR), and the entire process belong to ship breaking industry. It is a labour intensive industry. Usually a ship is constructed 95% of mild steel, 2% of stainless steel and 3% of metal alloy and others. A steel ship is usually used for 20 to 30 years.

Table 1  Ship breaking/recycling activity around the World 1977-2008 (in 1000 LDT).

Country 1977 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2008
Taiwan 3391 4409 7822 2 - 14 - -
Spain 873 279 603 13 40 26 5 6
South Korea 221 168 2551 4 3 1 - -
Italy 229 101 198 7 1 2 - -
Croatia 151 62 130 1 - - 1 -
Japan 193 129 973 81 146 22 - -
China 17 07 5019 81 754 2637 151 928
India 66 136 1303 1092 2810 5987 1123 2458
Bangladesh - - 818 217 2539 2407 2114 4176
SAR 299 300 1143 2 1670 789 48 274
Pakistan 365 436 3264 1311 7019 9183 3285 6908
Others 653 431 1669 315 560 1271 330 437
Total 6093 6022 22229 1645 9435 13552 4021 8280

Source Statistics of World Bank, Dhaka and the Shipbuilders Association of Japan.

Table 2 World merchant shipping fleet and number of ship recycled (SR) per year and position of Bangladesh.

Year No. SR worldwide SR in Bangladesh
2001 772 -
2002 740 -
2003 874 -
2004 615 -
2005 361 -
2006 386 182
2007 - 102
2008 - 226
2009 - 193

Source  Lloyd’s Register of shipping.

Most of the ship breaking is carried out in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan where the high tides are especially conducive to heaving the ships up onto the beach. There are more than 200,000 workers involved in ship recycling industry at Chittagong along the seacoast extended from Fauzdarhat to Kumira in Bangladesh. Present status of Bangladesh in ship recycling industry is number one in the world.

Reasons for spread of Ship Breaking Industry in Developing Countries Developed nations come out from ship breaking industry due to the improvement of their economic condition and increase in their labour cost. The last ship scrapped in the UK was half a century back. China, which until the 1990s undertook most of the scrapping in the world, dropped out of the market when strict environmental laws were introduced and her economic condition improved. Now China is more inclined to shipbuilding industry. Recycling is cost-effective only in few developing nations like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan who have natural yard, cheap labour and high demand for recycled goods.

Ship Breaking Industry

'History of Bangladesh Ship Recycling Industry In 1964, a stranded Greek vessel scrapped at Shitakundo in Chittagong by a local scrap-yard named Steel House. In 1974, Al Abbas, a salvaged Pakistan Navy vessel sunk during liberation war was scrapped in a Bangladeshi scrap-yard in Chittagong. However, other salvaged ships of liberation war boosted the scrapping industry. This industry expanded in 1980 and finally in 1984, Bangladesh now appears as a major ship breaking/recycling nation in the world. There are few distinct reasons for the development of ship recycling industry in Bangladesh. Again there are few definite reasons for choosing present location at Chittagong (Fauzdarhat to Kumira), for ship recycling industry in Bangladesh. These are (a) Availability of long unused beach at Chittagong area (Fauzdarhat to Kumira) with combination of soft sand and muddy ground suitable for beaching of scrap ship. Due to naturally large tidal difference (10 to 15 feet) and perfect slope for beaching, scrap ship can beached and anchored easily; (b) Availability and low cost of labor; (c) High demand of materials suitable to support other heavy industry like steel, iron, rod, machinery and small metal factory; (d) Having direct road communication with other areas and linkage industries. Moreover, easy transportation of scrap materials and their low price.

Contribution of Ship Breaking Industry towards Socio-economical Development In the absence of iron ore, scrap ship ensures the sustainable economic development of the nation. About a million people are directly and indirectly related to the industry. Nearly two lacs people are directly involved to the industry. Annual revenue earning from the industry is more than US$ 130 million. This industry provides raw materials for linkage industries like inland shipbuilding industry, construction industry, re-rolling mills, steel mills, oxygen plants, cable, ceramics, furniture factories etc. It supports local shipbuilding by providing steel plates, machineries, equipments, boats, navigation aids, electrical and electronics materials, fire fighting and life saving equipment, deck fitting and fixture, hundred of seamanship items, etc.

More than 60% materials and machineries for local shipbuilding come from local ship breaking/recycling industry. Inland and some coastal shipbuilding will be cripple without help of local ship breaking/recycling industry. It provides about 35000 tons of processed wood and furniture annually and henceforth preventing de-forestation. It helps for efficient utilisation of coastal area to develop as an economic/commercial area. This industry create serge barrier, prevent erosion and provide reclamation of coastal land. Ship breaking industry contributes about US$ 1 billion to the national economy.

Usual criticism and challenge Ship breaking industry is a risky sector where accident is a usual phenomenon and as a result human casualty and physical damage is frequent. Those frequent accident and casualty happen due to shortage of training, modern machinery and tools, fire fighting gears, protective clothing, helmet, gloves, boots, goggles; carelessness and casualness of workers; insufficient washing area, inadequate facilities of hospital, ambulance and first aid. However, from a statistics it is observed that only 20 people working in this industry died in 2009-2010. Main challenge of the industry is the environmental pollution. Bilge and dirty oil/liquid from scrap ship pollute the sea water. As a result marine plant and animal are affected severely. Moreover characteristics of the affected soil is also deteriorated. Sometimes this sort of marine pollution also affects the surrounding human and living organism. [Khandakar Akhter Hossain]