Gadani Shipyard or Graveyard
By Muhammad Majid Bashir
The tragedy at the Gadani Shipyard literally converted the shipyard into a graveyard claiming the lives of over 20 labourers in the oil tank explosions in a ship that was being broken into pieces by cutting it with gas. The incident took place due to lack of proper safety procedures.
Rescue workers struggled to extinguish the fire with only one fire engine present with not enough foam to douse it. Some of the bodies of workers were recovered from the water, when they jumped from the ship to save their lives and some quite far from the vessel near a village.
The ship workers were said to be in poor conditions without any protective gear. The prevailing situation shows a picture worth condemnation. Despite various accidents in the past, no measures for provision of health and safety related arrangements had been made by the Government of Baluchistan. Many NGOs had filed complaints in Baluchistan Environment Protection Agency (BEPA) against the ship breaking industry but BEPA reportedly did not take any action against the ship breaking yards’ owners. The incident demands fixing of responsibilities for non-compliance with the Standards of the International Labour Organization-ILO, EU directives on ship breaking industries, Domestic health, Safety and Labour laws and Baluchistan Environment Protection Act 2012. The workers at the Gadani shipyard reportedly still lack basic facilities.
The poor working conditions at Gadani shipyard are dangerous for the workers and have placed Pakistan in the list of non-compliance country of international conventions and treaties relating to safety and health of workers. The latest incident has literally challenged the credibility of the country on the count of labour standards.
As per the Prevention of Major Industrial Accidents Convention, 1993 (No. 174) measures should have to be taken to prevent major accidents; to minimize the risks of major accidents and their effects. The Employers at the ship breaking yard should have identified the hazards for the workers and have notified it to a competent authority to deal with them.
The conditions of the ship yard were not reported to the Baluchistan Environment Protection Agency so that it could have been remedied up to the quality standards required by law. The Agency responsible to measure and monitor industrial areas and implement environmental Laws, regulations and National Environmental Quality Standards also omitted to notice the hazardous working environment by conducting surveys, inspection, and examinations prescribed by the Baluchistan Environment Protection Act 2012 that the workers had been complaining of. The Government of Baluchistan has to immediately put a ban on the ship breaking industry at Gadani and specify safeguards for the prevention of accidents and disasters as the latest incident portrays a failure of collaboration between the authorities and the Ship Yard owners to prepare contingency plans for control of such accidents and disasters. The government should constitute a commission for implementation and enforcement of the laws and review the existing legislations in the light of ILO guidelines, Basel Convention, Hong Kong convention, EU Directives and related International Conventions for workers’ safety, health, Environment and dismantling of ships.
(The write is Founding President of Centre for Rule of Law Islamabad-CROLI. E-mail: Judgemajid@hotmail.com)