During the Liberation War in 1971, a Pakistani ship ‘Al Abbas’ was damaged by bombing. It was later salvaged and brought to the Fauzdarhat seashore. In 1974, Karnafully Metal Works Ltd bought it as scrap, introducing commercial shipbreaking in Bangladesh. The industry flourished during the 1980s. Today it has become large and profitable industry for Bangladesh.
Shipbreaking activities in Bangladesh is concentrated in Sitakund (Bhatiary to Barwalia), just north of Chittagong city on the Bay of Bengal. It is of paramount importance to the macro and micro economies of poverty stricken Bangladesh. Shipbreaking activities present both challenges and opportunities for our coastal zone management. Meeting the increasing demand for raw materials such as steel needs to be balanced with the negative impact this activity is having on our coastal environment and the conditions of the workers.
The shipbreaking industry started its operations in the 1960s when a Greek ship ‘MD Alpine’ was stranded on the shores of Sitakund, Chittagong after a severe cyclone. The ship remained there for a long time before the Chittagong Steel House brought the vessel and scrapped it.
Most of the ship breaking workers come from the poverty stricken northern region of Bangladesh where there are limited employment opportunities. Usually, the workers are not given an appointment letter and there is no formal contract between the employer and the employee. Workers have been unable to enforce their right to permanent and secure employment as they are unable to demonstrate an employment relationship exist between the yard owners and themselves. Their wages depend on the number of hours worked as well as the type of work and skill level. They have no entitlement to overtime, sick or annual leave. Their wages range from BDT 150 -250.
It was found that majority of the labour (40.75%) are between the ages of 18-22 years old. Only 1.13% of labour is between 46-60 years old. One of the most disturbing findings was that child labour (under the age of 18) made up 10.94% of the workforce. 46.42% of yard workers are illiterate while 43.02% attained primary school education.