The average life cycle of modern ship is between 20 and 25 years and at the end of this cycle it becomes uneconomical for operations and maintenance due to a lack of parts, corrosion and steel fatigue. The ship becomes a waste to be disposed either by sinking or by abandonment and as well by demolition for recycling. Demolition is the most economical and environmentally friendly option if carried out in a safe and clean environment. Ship demolition is a complex and hazardous industry with great number of occupational and environmental risks.
It involves the dismantling of the ship’s complex steel structure for recycling and, the removal of equipment and gears for resale. Ship owners and the demolition yard operators are careless about the hazard and risks this maritime business post to the environment and the workers but care more of its economic gain.
Many discussions have been ongoing for so many years due to many terrible industrial accidents and environmental degradation happening in and around many demolition yards with no successful solution.
The governments of the breaking yard operations especially in the South Asian countries where 70% of world commercial ships are taking for demolition annually, has done little or nothing to address this terrible situation in these yards. IMO as well seem not to have done enough or has been ineffective in ensuring enforcement of the relevant regulations, the Hong Kong convention as it did on other conventions like the recent London convention on Carbon emission/Sulphur Cap. IMO must be able to rise to this challenge and see the hazard and risks constantly faced by environments and people under this maritime business as part of it’s global duties to cub, otherwise it’s regulatory effectiveness over maritime activities and business as mandated by the UN will remain in doubt.
According to an online journal, NGO shipbreaking platform, about one thousand commercial ships reach their end of life cycle annually, 70% of which end up in South Asia demolition yards. ( NGO shipbreaking platform). Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and China received the largest share of world demolition business, a deviation from the past in which most ship demolition business was carried out in Europe and United states. The shift of the ship demolition hub to South Asia, particularly Bangladesh and Pakistan are due to weaker legal frameworks, less concern about the damaging cost of ship demolition activities to human lives and the environment by the respective governments. The ILO called it one of the most dangerous occupational and environmental health problems in the world with unacceptable high level of fatalities, injuries and workers’-related deases.