|Ship Breaking in Bangladesh|
Until you have stood in the looming shade of the beached hulk of a giant leviathan of the sea, you may never have really understood the meaning of ‘being made to feel small’!
Super tankers, Bulk carriers, Container Ships, Cargo and Cruise Liners; over half the world’s redundant shipping ends up on one small stretch of the coast of Bangladesh.
Just as in ship building, the labour force, which makes an immense contribution to employment in a country with such a high rate of real unemployment, works at higher risk levels than most jobs. The environment, too, in a country already at risk from climate change, has to be a matter of concern. But this is an industry that makes a major contribution in the country, not only to jobs, but also to the supply of iron and steel, amongst many recyclable materials, vital in an expanding economy with no natural resources in that area.
And if ships were not broken up here, where labour rates are still low, then where?
Time was such ships were simply sunk, often in insurance scams, to litter the sea bed and pollute waters as liquids and even more dangerous pollutants found their way into the water as the ships disintegrated.
There are, perhaps, few industrial vistas more spectacular than thirty, forty, fifty ships parked, side by side along the shore, being slowly disassembled by hand. And Sitakunda, in Bangladesh, is yet another world first for a country that already has the longest beach, the largest delta system and the largest Mangrove forest. And all this grew from the beaching of a small cargo ship during the tragic 1990 cyclone in which over 150,000 lost their lives, and when it was found the cyclone surge had carried the ship too far inland to be refloated, a new industry was born, thanks to the entrepreneurial initiatives of the people.