Explosion at Bangladesh shipbreaking yard exposes safety lapse

Serious safety lapse resulted in a recent explosion on board the vessel BUNGA KELANA 4 (IMO 9178343), beached at Mahinur Ship Breaking yard, Chittagong, and caused the death of two workers and injured five others.

The flames spread from abandoned waste oil located close to the engine room where workers were torch-cutting steel parts.

Video footage from the accident shows that there was no emergency response equipment available at the yard.  Barefoot workers without protective gear are seen carrying the injured.

Ingvild Jenssen, Executive Director and Founder, NGO Shipbreaking Platform, said: “The conditions at Mahinur Ship Breaking are shocking and unfortunately telling of the overall appalling working conditions at the Bangladeshi shipbreaking yards.

“Workers are exposed to enormous risks because there is no infrastructure available on the beach to ensure safe working conditions and rapid emergency response.”

Before its final voyage, the vessel changed its name to KELANA 4, and its Malaysian flag was swapped to that of Comoros.

These are clear indicators that the vessel was brought to the beaching yard with the help of a scrap-dealer known as cash buyer.

The use of black- and grey-listed flags, such as Comoros, Palau and St Kitts and Nevis, as well as anonymous post-box companies to register the ships, renders it very difficult for authorities to trace and hold ship owners liable for illicit business practices that cause the loss of life, injuries and irreparable damage to the environment.

In the last ten years, hundreds of workers have lost their lives and suffered severe injuries due to dirty and dangerous shipbreaking practices in Bangladesh.

Many more suffer from exposure to toxic fumes and materials that are embedded within the ships’ structures.  Breaking apart ships on tidal beaches also causes irreparable damage to the environment.

Jenssen said: “It is high time for the Bangladesh government to regulate their shipbreaking industry and put a halt to the systematic violations of national labour and environmental protection laws.

“This latest tragic explosion adds to the shipping industry’s appalling toll on human lives and should act as a wake-up call for the financiers and customers of shipping to demand recycling practices off the beach and in line with the standards set by international waste laws and labour conventions.”

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