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Shipbreaking on the Beaches of South Asia Report

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Updated: Apr 14th, 2022


Shipbreaking epitomizes the potentialities as well as the dangers of an ever-increasing globalized economy. The International Federation for Human Rights states that with the snowballing boom in international trade, the Northern corporations and the West are not leaving any chances. As they delocalize their activities, researchers state that they release wastes and hazardous materials in the course of their business. Apart from that, they seek a cheap labor force while creating economic opportunities for thousands of laborers who get their work done. While shipbreaking employs thousands of workers in Asia, the environmental concerns are grave. Much of its activities delves into the production of steel which acts as an alternative to none renewable ore. It thus represents the importance of recycling waste materials as a way of preserving or economizing raw materials. The industrial waste trend is a growing problem in South Asia and it poses various environmental and health complications, especially in areas where the disposal is poor. The hazardous chemical materials that often culminate in these activities are enormous. Under industrial processes that attach environmental consent to their activities, and extent nearing 100 percent of the ship is often recycled. To a certain extent, shipbreaking as Sahu, Beig, and Parkhi note, may refer to a “green” industry in the making. As Patrizia Heidegger’s report on ship scrapping seems to label, shipbreaking is an endeavor that makes it possible to reduce the extraction of virgin natural resources. Ship demolitions remove colossal archaic tonnage from fleets for use in the construction of ships in the shipping industry.

Research the background

While this delocalization is a robust economic activity, it also exposes workers, especially in the developing countries, to industrial health hazards that would be unacceptable in industrialized nations. Friends of the Earth assert that by virtue of its global positioning, South Asia regionally falls prey to these activities. If anything, the multinational corporations that deal in Shipbreaking set far lesser standards than what falls below the internationally set threshold. In effect, Shipbreaking creates two classes of workers, those in the developing world and those in the developed world. Normally, the dangers inherent in shipbreaking are well documented and well known. They have had both negativities and positives of grand proportions. According to Luttenberger, shipbreaking is a highly dangerous activity owing to the exposure to toxic substances, which expose the labor force to risks hazards that often lead to serious injury and chronic health problems that may result in death. The notable hazardous materials within these ventures include asbestos and PCBs. Other hazards include PFOS and ozone-depleting substances. The sad fact as Zakaria and Khalif note is the inability – or perhaps the unwillingness – of governments in much of developing regions such as South Asia to enforce human rights laws to minimize these dangerous activities. However, Matz-Lück counters this argument suggesting that enforcement of such laws could be hard to achieve because of the fear that stringent regulations may result in the industries relocating to an even lower-cost region. This observes class the vulnerability of their populations in the face of private operators. According to most governments in the developing world, these activities translate into power relations that make them partakers in a share of foreign trade. However, the European Commission on Ship Recycling states that all these happen at the expense of the workers who put their lives on the breadline. A sad fact in economic strategy is that economic proceeds take precedence over the respect of fundamental human rights and freedoms, which should not be the case under normal circumstances.

Serious risks versus economic stature

Normally, when it comes to businesses, governments do not consider the risks they expose their populations. Often when human rights intertwine with economic development, human rights become a fetter to business. According to The European Commission, national governments operating in the regions where the yards are situated hold a fundamental duty of protecting their people. The ultimate responsibility for protecting the rights of workers often vests upon the governments. However, the various public or private operators along the chain normally exceed exoneration leading to unprecedented human suffering as the multinational corporations go about their businesses. Engels points out that governments should be held responsible for the terms and conditions in which they sell their ships since such deals perpetuate the vice. With stringent shipment regulations, ship owners cannot easily exempt themselves from all responsibilities or hazards contained in the shipbreaking. If guaranteed, such a situation will make it hard for Shipbreaking industries to contravene the principle and ideals of environmentally safe ventures. As things stand out currently, the conditions that the shipbreaking industries impose on their workers in the yards are regrettable and enormous. Under regulation in the Shipbreaking venture continues to pose a serious humanitarian crisis because the governments assume they should do business and raise their economic stature without necessarily considering the plight of their populations. While the Shipbreaking ventures raise the international level of economy, the local shipbreaking workers are often at the losing end as they put their lives directly to dangerous health hazards.

Pollution and health hazards

Pollution consists of the contamination of the ecosystem normally by discharging toxic waste material into the air, onto the soil, or in water. Industrial pollution is almost concomitant with The Third World countries in which the South Asia region is not an excuse.11 The third world countries tend to exhibit extremely poor environmental laws that may not bring the industries operating in such regions to book. In much of the Third Word counties and South Asia in particular, pollution especially by multinational corporations is not much restricted and their respective governments do not amicably address a broad spectrum of environmental concerns. The European Commission asserts that creating and enforcing stricter environmental regulations and laws in the South Asian region may carry economic catastrophes though such feats may help in reducing the risks attached. Currently, most nations across the world remain torn between the dilemma of either communicating stricter laws or having a polluted environment while securing their economic stability. Often, shipbreaking industries take advantage of the Third World countries’ predicaments. According to Sokhi, multinational corporations dealing in Shipbreaking do not read guilt in dumping hazardous waste and garbage in the environments of developing countries. Such activities are often attributable to weaker laws that enable ship-owners to avoid the disposal costs in these regions.

Without stricter disposal regulations, Shipbreaking companies have naturally made it a tendency to build plants that emit sizeable pollutants in the South Asian region. Since industrial laws are not strict in third-world countries, multinational corporations find it fit to do business in these regions because it is easy to avoid the regulations in poor regions than in their home countries. Fighting the environmental pollution menace is usually not easy, as renowned multinational corporations in the Shipbreaking venture. These groups produce overly dangerous chemicals considered environmentally hazardous in the developed world and find a market in the Third World regions such as South Asia. Usually, the laws in the third world are somewhat relaxed and may not adequately restrict the usage or release of such harmful chemicals by virtue that it might be costly for their populations trying to make a living in the absence of these businesses. Without stricter laws and regulations, the ultimate victims of environmental degradation have always been the workforces and the populations living in such environments. Apart from the concerns posed by modern development strategies and industrialization, the South Asia will always undergo environmental problems because of the high rate of unemployment and poverty levels. Particularly, the environmental concerns prevalent in South Asia owing to Shipbreaking ranges from water, land, to air pollution. In all the Shipbreaking endeavors, poisoning of the atmosphere not only poses threats to humans but also causes deforestation and desertification, which are among the notable features of pollution in areas where shipbreaking takes place.

The current law of ship recycling

One thing that many corporations are aware of is that shipment laws exist, even though they are not very keen on following such laws. The current law of ship recycling intends to mitigate the negative effects linked to the recycling of the EU-flagged ships. Much of these efforts especially delve into South Asia, as they seek to regulate business without unnecessarily creating economic burdens. As The European Commission notes, recycling laws enforce safe and environmentally friendly recycling practices. The mandate of the Hong Kong Convention ensures that ships are sustainably recycled. The current law governing recycled ships applies to large commercial fleets belonging to the EU. To guarantee legal clarity, the International Federation for Human Rights notes that the current legislation is effective in the regulation of ships. The regulations are not liable to the Waste Shipment Regulation (EC). Recycling laws set out a range of requirements that stakeholders of the European ships must meet. These laws and regulations require that stakeholders recycle ships that fly the EU flag. Accordingly, the regulations attract certain penalties regarding the use of hazardous materials on ships.

According to The European Commission, category listing provided in Europe is only possible when the parties concerned have the necessary information about the materials to the ship recycling facility. Moreover, the law requires that the facilitators notify the authorities of their intention to recycle the ship apart from providing an updated inventory of any hazardous materials. The law not only seeks to enable ship-owners to avoid the disposal costs, but also to provide a ready recycling certification to the ship in the recycling venture. Therefore, the shipowner has to provide information about the ship before an operator begins working on the ship. Information from the shipowner will guide the recycling plan under the law. Under this law, the plan must constitute information about the ship. The plan also requires safe detonation to facilitate an environmentally benign recycling venture. The same law will ensure that the ships are surveyed to verify whether they comply with the regulatory standards. This applies specifically to hazards. The laws will ensure that the inventory of the ships complies with hazardous materials.


Patrizia Heidegger’s statement is true because, within South Asia, ship recycling has created a significant toll on the environment. The fact is that the indigenous populations are consuming a growing mass of very lethal materials that pose serious threats to humanity and the environment. While extracting virgin materials from the natural environment contributes to global habitat loss, ship recycling seeks to mitigate this concern, creating its fair share of the environmental toll. Many practices adopted by the ship recycling industries have been more harmful than necessary. Usually, this is so because much of the developing world have weaker laws and regulation that are limited to curtail the vice. However, with effective laws in force, the objectives of ship recycling will amicably mitigate the negative effects linked to the practice. The environmental concerns for shipbreaking are grave with much of its activities delving into the production of steel. Recycling waste materials is a way of preserving or economizing raw materials that will handle the problem of the industrial waste trend in South Asia. It is time to act, to curb the hazardous environmental and health complications, especially in areas where the disposal is poor.


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