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India investing heavily in safety at Alang shipbreaking yard

© NGO Shipbreaking Platform

India – India’s ministry of shipping is to invest 100 million rupees (US$ 1.5 million) in improving ship recycling conditions at the Alang-Sosiya recycling yard in Gujarat. Most of the money will go into workforce safety training.

The investment forms part of India’s Coastal Community Development Programme and an estimated 30 million rupees will be spent in this field over the next three years.

This shipbreaking training initiative has been designed according to the National Skill Qualification Framework and will focus on safety issues likely to lead to injury, death or chronic occupational diseases.

Owing to the hazardous nature of shipbreaking in India, the Gujarat Maritime Board set up a local Safety Training and Labour Welfare Institute which has gone on to train some 100 000 labourers at the Alang hub over the last decade. The Alang-Sosiya yard is one of the biggest in Asia, recycling on average some 350 vessels per year and generating more than 3 million tonnes of steel scrap.

News of the safety training investment comes after several gas cylinder explosions on board an oil production and storage tanker beached at the Gadani shipbreaking plot killed at least 21 workers and seriously injured around 60 more.

‘This terrific accident is a painful reminder of the dangerous working conditions at the shipbreaking yards in Gadani,’ comments Ingvild Jenssen, policy director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.

Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, adds: ‘Health and safety must come first. This terrible blast could have been avoided.’ Rescue operations proved extremely difficult owing to the lack of ambulances and firefighting equipment, and because rapid access to the ship and the workers stuck inside were ‘extremely challenging’, he points out.

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