Target: President Abdul Hamid of Bangladesh
Goal: Implement safety guidelines for ship breaking workers and the environment
There are currently no safety or environmental guidelines for the dangerous work of ship breaking in Bangladesh. When large freighter vessels are too old to continue operating—typically around 25-30 years—they must be disassembled for recycling. Usually, this process requires teams of men using rudimentary tools to break apart the ship into its various parts. The job is extremely dangerous for the workers and for the environment, yet the government of Bangladesh—where ship breaking is most often done—seems poised to continue doing nothing about it.
Companies that need to recycle a decommissioned vessel most often choose to do so in Bangladesh because the environmental regulations are few and poorly enforced. The oil in the vessel can only be emptied so much, so when the men cut the ship open, oil is simply released into the water along with any other toxic chemicals still in the ship.
Often when the men cut the vessel open—which is done largely while they are still inside—their torches and tools come into contact with flammable oils and the resulting explosions have killed many men over the years. These large freighters are also often filled with asbestos, a highly toxic substance known to cause cancer and other illnesses, to which the workers are regularly exposed.
There are no safety guidelines for the workers, no masks for the chemicals, nothing to protect them from falling hunks of steal, nothing to keep them from being cut by the sharp metal. In 2011 and 2012, 15 workers died in various accidents while on the job, and those who survived explosions, fatal cuts and falls still face serious respiratory damage and long-term ailment from the many chemicals. In addition to the danger to workers, the fossil fuels and chemicals that are dumped into the water threaten the ocean’s ecosystems.
Demand safety guidelines be implemented in the ship-breaking industry to keep workers and the environment safe.
Dear President Hamid,
Ship breaking is a dirty and dangerous industry that puts workers and the environment at great risk. Many men involved in the industry die every year from on-site accidents in this hazardous environment and those who survive workplace dangers still face serious health complications from the chemicals to which they are so regularly exposed. The ship-breaking process also exposes the environment to the same toxic chemicals, dumping untold amounts of oil into the water and endangering countless animals and plants.
I urge you to implement appropriate safety guidelines for ship breaking and to ensure the workers receive all necessary equipment to do their jobs safely and efficiently, and to create environmental standards for the industry.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Stéphane M Grueso via Flickr