On January 16, two workers, Qasim and Mustafa, lost their lives crushed by a heavy iron plate during the dismantling of bulk carrier CATHERINE BRIGHT (IMO 9186924) at Dewan Shipbreaking in Gadani, Pakistan. The vessel was linked to Oman-based Maritime International Transport & Trading and flagged Panama when it was beached.
The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) accuses authorities of negligence as there continues to be a lack of compliance with occupational health and safety standards in the shipbreaking sector. According to the NTUF, the absence of safety measures at the Gadani beaching yards forces workers to carry out their duties under extremely dangerous conditions, which knowingly puts their lives at risk.
The NTUF has long raised concerns that various government agencies, including the police, let the sector operate with impunity, and calls for a full investigation of the accident that killed Qasim and Mustafa. There are claims that their bodies were clandestinely buried at night without any post-mortem examination, indicating an attempt to conceal the cause of death and protect the contractor and yard owner from liability.
Despite having identified serious deficiencies at the yards following the catastrophic blast that killed more than 30 workers on the spot in 2016, Pakistani authorities have failed to impose necessary measures to safeguard sustainable ship recycling practices.
The killing of Qasim and Mustafa adds to a growing number of deaths that could have been avoided in Gadani, where fifteen vessels have been beached in the past year. Four of these ships were owned by Greek companies.
Sara Rita da Costa, Project Officer at the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, states: “For over two decades, we’ve persistently urged South Asian authorities to relocate the shipbreaking industry to designated areas with better facilities, ensuring worker safety and preventing pollution.
“Ignoring this urgent need risks more tragic loss of life. It’s time authorities recognize that the profits gained by yard owners and shipping companies are made at the expenses of both humans and coastal environments.”
Photo credit: NGO Shipbreaking Platform. Bulk carrier CATHERINE BRIGHT beached at Gadani.