Violence reaches new level: shipbreaking yards’ private security personnel fire shots and injure seven people
Chittagong/Brussels, 4 April 2016 – In the morning of 28 March, shipbreaking worker Sumon was killed on a private road inside Kabir Steel yard located North of Bangladesh’s major port city, Chittagong. His brother, who works at the yard as well, was seriously injured in the same accident. According to local sources, Sumon was run over by a truck transporting steel plates from the yard. When a local government representative reached the yard to claim the legal compensation owed to the victim’s family, the yard management refused to take responsibility for the accident with the argument that the truck was owned and operated by another company.
At around 11 a.m., locals together with family members gathered outside the yard in protest and blocked traffic on the highway. They claimed, according to the English daily newspaper The Daily Star that the company was withholding Sumon’s body inside the yard. The private security personnel employed by the shipbreaking yard started shooting at the group. According to Bangladeshi newspapers, one of Kabir Steel’s guards injured seven people.
“This course of action represents unnecessary use of violence against unarmed protestors, ” says Patrizia Heidegger, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, “and it shows the climate of violence surrounding the shipbreaking yards. Locals and workers protesting the conditions in the yards obviously put their lives in danger in an atmosphere in which shipbreaking yards feel entitled to shoot at people.”
Tariqul Islam of the local police station said that the accused security guards were detained. Moreover, the Financial Express Bangladesh reported that the police seized a gun and several rounds of bullets at the yard.
“The incident shows how non-transparent this industry is. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform and its local members now expect that the police investigates this case properly. We demand rightful punishment of those responsible for the blood shed”, says Rizwana Hasan, Chief Executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association.
Muhammed Ali Shahin, the Platform’s Bangladesh coordinator, adds: “We expect that the family of the dead worker receives its due compensation as fast as possible instead of being caught up in an argument between two companies pushing away responsibility”. So far, the compensation claim has not been settled.
Kabir Steel’s shipbreaking yard is part of the large industrial conglomerate of Kabir Group of Industries. The NGO Shipbreaking Platform has documented several severe and fatal accidents in the yard over the last years. In 2014 alone, when the yard had the highest recorded number of accidents amongst all Bangladeshi shipbreakers, at least 2 workers were killed and six more severely injured at Kabir Steel’s shipbreaking yard and re-rolling mill in four different accidents. This included the case of three workers who suffered severe burn wounds all over their bodies after an explosion on a Norwegian-owned oil tanker used by Teekay Corporation. In another accident in the same yard, on 30 March 2016, cutter helper Md. Abdus Salam fell down from a beached vessel due to the lack of safety measures at work. As a result, he suffered serious injuries including several fractures in his arms and legs.
“The sad accidents record is proof of the fact that Kabir Steel does not ensure safer working conditions, does not comply with proper safety procedures, uses untrained workers, lacks proper infrastructure to guarantee occupational health and safety and does not organise the legally binding Safety Committee at yard level”, criticises Repon Chowdhury, Executive Director of the Platform member Bangladesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation.
The Platform welcomes that IndustriAll Global Union has sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. It joins the trade union’s call for proper investigation and for the rightful punishment of both negligent yard owners and of security guards for the bodily assault of protestors.
Sumon and the other workers at Kabir Steel have been hired to dismantle the Greek-owned and Greek-flagged bulk carrier Alpha Friendship. The Athens-based owner Alpha Tankers obviously does not take care of responsible ship recycling. The Platform will take up this case to illustrate the necessity for the EU and its Member States to better regulate ship owners’ sub-standard shipbreaking practices.
Click here to access IndustriALL’s press release on the incident.
Click here to access The Daily Star’s article covering the incident.