The American magazine VICE has recently published on their website a video called “Where giant cargo ships go to die”. The video shows the working conditions in the the shipbreaking yards in Chittagong, Bangladesh.
The Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard is situated in the Faujdarhat, Bangladesh along the 18 kilometres (11 mi) Sitakunda coastal strip, which is roughly 20 kilometres (12 mi) north-west of Chittagong. It is the largest ship-breaking industry in the whole world and accounts for over 200,000 Bangladeshis employees as well as for half of all the steel in Bangladesh.
Back in 1960, following a severe cyclone, the Greek ship MD Alpine ran aground on the Sitakunda shores, Chittagong. Teams could not re-float it at the time so it remained there for a few years. Then 5 year later in 1965, Chittagong Steel House decided to buy the vessel and scrap it. It took years for the company to scrap the ship, but that was first step in a long way of establishing the industry in Bangladesh.
During the Bangladesh Liberation War, a Pakistani vessel Al Abbas sustained severe damage due to bombing. After that the vessel was salvaged by a Soviet team, that at the time were working at the Chittagong port, after which the vessel was brought to the Faujdarhat seashore. Karnafully Metal Works Ltd, a local company, decided to buy it as scrap in the year 1974 and thus introduced commercial ship breaking in Bangladesh.
Through the 1980s the industry demonstrated steady growth and by the time the mid-90s hit, Bangladesh already ranked as the number two country in the world regarding tonnage scrapped. In 2008, the area accounted for 26 ship breaking yards, and in 2009 their number grew up to 40. From the time period between 2004 and 2008, the area was the world’s largest ship-breaking yard. However, by the year 2012 it had fallen through the ranks from half to a fifth of the total worldwide ship-breaking.
At a particular time not long ago the industry was actually a tourist attraction, but the situation has changed and outsiders are no longer allowed due to poor safety records; a local watchdog group has issued claims that a worker dies per average every week. Workers don’t have protective equipment nor do they have any sort of financial security. Last year, shipping company Hapag-Lloyd followed the lead of Maersk to stop using the yard for its ship-breaking operations, despite the higher costs elsewhere.
A scene from the up-coming movie Avengers: Age of Ultron was shot at the Chittagong ship breaking yards.