In this quarterly publication, the NGO Shipbreaking Platform informs about the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. In total, 102 ships were dismantled worldwide from January until March 2023.
Developments in South Asia
he worldwide market conditions following the pandemic and the still ongoing US sanctions regarding the Russia -Ukraine war have halted shipbreaking import in South Asia since last year.
The year 2022 was the lowest of the last four year regarding imports in Chattogram, Bangladesh which has caused ascarcity of steel scrap in the country. The US dollar crisis has forced around 30 shipbreaking yards to close. According to the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association, 80 of the 150 Bangladesh shipbreaking yards have closed down between 2012-2019.
Currently, only around 20 shipbreaking yards are active in Sitakunda. Last July, Bangladesh’s central bank reduced the value of letters of credit that can be issued for foreign currency purchases to $3m. Only some ship recyclers are now able to open letters of credit for small vessels.
Developments in Bangladesh
On March 4, an explosion at Sheema’s oxygen plant in Sitakunda, Chattogram caused seven deaths and over 30 injured. The victims were transported to the Chattogram Medical College Hospital. Two people lost their lives at Kadamrusul market, about a kilometer away from the explosion spot.
The Sheema oxygen plant is a subsidiary of Sheema Automatic ReRolling Mills Limited in Kadamrusul, which is part of the Sheema Group, a business conglomerate engaged in shipbreaking and s eel manufacturing activities. The recent explosion incident at Sheema’s oxygen factory has aggravated the company’s debt of Tk1000 crore.
Altogether 16 people, including three owners of Sheema Oxygen Plant Limited, have been prosecuted fol lowing the explosion. Sheema Group sells oxy – acetylene from the plant mainly to the shipbreaking yards and steel mills in Sitakunda. According to Tofazzal Hossain, an explosives inspector in Chattogram, the
reasons of the explosion, which took a round 30 hours to be extingui shed, are not yet clear.
The incident at Sheema oxygen plant has revealed once again the absence of workers’ safety and the lack of inspections and monitoring by government authorities. In the last decades, Sitakunda has often been in the headlines for accidents inside shipbreaking yards, steel re-rolling mills and other manufacturing plants and for its rapid and unplanned industrialisation.
The industry keeps destroying environmental ecosystems in the Sitakunda area to build up new shipbrea king yards. Already in 2009, a total of 14,000 mangrove trees were illegally cut to expand the dirty and dangerous shipbreaking activities in Chattogram and were never replanted. As we write, despite of a High Court’ sban, Kohinoor Steel is building a yard on five acres of protected land in Sitakunda’s reserve forest.