BREAKING NEWS: Another Fire at Gadani Ship Yard Kills Five
Five ship breaking workers were killed after a fire broke out today at the Gadani ship yard in Pakistan.
This is the third such incident at the location in as many months. A fire in November claimed 26 lives. Last month, another ship caught fire, in an incident in which there were not fatalities.
According to local news reports, over 100 workers were on the ship when the fire broke out. Seventy workers were rescured using life boats. Several workers are still missing.
The ship yard had been closed after the November fire, but was allowed to reeopen last month after the Pakistan Ship Breakers Association (PSBA) convinced Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to allow shipbreaking activities in Gadani to continue.
Fires and other hazardous conditions for workers are a continuing concern at Gadani’s ship yards, as well as at others in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Besides incidents involving explosions and fires, other issues arise from high levels of air pollution, unsatisfactory safety regulations and exposure to harmful substances.
Pakistan’s government currently does not monitor operations at the yard. There are applicable international standards fro shipbreaking yards, but these are apparently not enforced at many yards on the Indian subcontinent.
The issue of safety at shipbreaking yards was highlighted in a somewhat different content recently, when it was revealed that the shipping giant Maersk was encouraging its decommissioned ships to be scrapped in yards which the company acknowledged did not live up to accepted safety standards.
Maersk at first defended its practice by saying it was working to reform conditions from the inside. The carrier also justifed its use of the yards for their low labor costs and the high prices for scrap steel that prevail in that part of the world. Maersk later reversed itself and said it would no longer use unsafe shipbreaking yards.
Ship scrapping has accelerated in the last year, as ocean carriers scramble to remove excesss capacity from their fleets.
Gadani, located on Pakistan’s coast 37 miles northwest of Karachi, is the world’s third-largest shipbreaking yard, but it is operating at a fraction of its capacity compared to its heyday in the 1980s. Back then, Gadani was the number one shipbreaking yard in the world, employing more than 30,000 workers. But competition from newer facilities in India and Bangladesh have taken there toll. Today the yard produces less than one-fifth of the scrap it produced in the 1980s and its payroll dipped to around 6,000.