At total of 20 workers were rescued after being trapped inside an oil tanker which caught fire in Gadani shipbreaking yard, Pakistan, on Monday, local media reported. The incident occurred during dismantling operations only a few months after the tanker scrapping ban was lifted.
The fire erupted during welding and trapped several workers inside the ship, but authorities managed to rescue them, according to Dawn.
Pollutant and dangerous scrapping has been a key area of concern for Pakistani shipbreaking, with yards operating directly on the beach, without any impermeable and drained working areas to prevent pollution, according to data provided by NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
At the same time, workers’ health and safety being blatantly ignored. Trade unions, such as the IndustriAll-affiliated Pakistan National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), have voiced strong concerns related to the systemic breaches of basic labour rights, especially after the deadly explosion of the ‘Aces’ tanker on 1 November 2016 which caused death of 31 workers and serious injury of at least another 58.
A year later, a same fire onboard the same vessel showed that ‘no lessons were learned’, the IndustriAll noted at that time.
Two more subsequent events in late 2016 and in early 2017 resulted in a temporary ban on tanker scrapping at Gadani, but this was lifted in April 2018, which erupted a wave of criticism across local and international labor unions. Gadani was also declared one of the worst workplace environments worldwide by labour rights watchdogs.
Located 45 km northwest of Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi, the Gadani ship-breaking yard is the world’s third largest shipyard, lying across a 10-km long beachfront.