Ship Breaking

The global shipping industry as a whole depends upon the developing world to dispose of outdated deep-sea vessels through the process of ship breaking. In doing so the industry avoids the burdens of complying with developed world standards for the management of hazardous waste The global shipping industry heavily depends on ship scrapping enterprises in the developing world to dispose of these ships. These enterprises pay the final owners for the opportunity to salvage, for domestic markets, industrial products. For a developing country with relatively little industrial capacity to meet domestic demand for industrial products, deep-sea ships are almost entirely salvaged. This arrangement does not merely provide a ready global market for ship owners at the time of final disposition. It also shifts significant occupational environmental health (OEH) risks from the developed world, where dismantling capital infrastructure, government regulation, and social expectations for safety are relatively mature, to largely rural areas of developing countries, where infrastructure, regulation and expectations are relatively weak. The economic model in today’s world is quite vibrant, shifting rapidly according to changing market forces. However, a widespread reform effort has been trying, for close to ten years and with increasing momentum, to make participating businesses more legally liable and pertinent regulators more empowered and motivated to enforce developed world standards. This reform effort is difficult to chart out in its entirety. It ranges from calls to shut down entirely developing world ship breaking to proposals for incremental improvements in regulation within the existing economic model. Also, the campaign for reforms is taking place in multiple venues, in loosely coordinated ways, in the international, national and sub-national regional arenas. Moreover, managing OEH risks of ship recycling might appear at first glance to be easily localized (at the ship breaking site), but in reality is spread out across a long continuum of the life cycle of ships, from their original design through their dismantling, perhaps 30 years later, and disbursement into tens of thousands of reused materials, involving hundreds of formal and informal business enterprises. Usually it is difficult for a developing nation to increase significantly its OEH standards for a particular, migrant-staffed industry, ship recycling, while the OEH profile for the rest of its society remains troubled. The fragile workers’ compensation systems adopted by some countries cannot be expected to work well for ship breaking workers and for others. Nonetheless, it is possible that in the next few years a number of forces will push the economic model towards notably greater compliance with developed world–type OEH standards. Already, worker safety appears to have improved in India. Momentum is building among international standard-setting bodies to do something serious, primarily about pre disposal environmental safety measures. Traumatic injury and death risk data for ship breaking workers are of very uneven quality. There are no reliable time series of incidents, injuries, and illnesses for Indian yard workers. With regard to worker welfare and domestic protections such as workers’ compensation systems, domestic activist campaigns aimed at the courts and national and regional regulators may bear more fruit. Better enforcement of laws on the books, such as workers’ compensation laws and labor laws in general, is probably the most likely path towards improvements in the near future. The best prospects for improvement are probably in the area of preparing end-of-life ships for dismantling prior to their arrival at ship breaking sites. The shipping management course in kerala industry is dead opposed to any requirement that ships be entirely decontaminated prior to arrival, for instance by removal of asbestos. However, standards for proper labeling and disclosure of on-board risks appear to prompt less opposition.


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