According to local media, two workers recently died on the shipbreaking beach of Alang, India. Two separate accidents took place at well-known scrapping yards that have applied to be included in the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities.
On July 29, 50 years old Subash Vishwakarma lost his life at Priya Blue yard - Plot V1. He was working on a ship when a metal plate fell on his head. He was transferred to the nearest hospital in bad condition and pronounced dead at arrival. On September 3, due to an explosion during cutting operations, one worker lost his life and one got severely injured at Shree Ram yard - Plot 78/81. Fellow workers that witnessed the tragic event were unwilling to share information with journalists. The accident is under police investigation.
“We expect transparency on the causes of these fatalities, and that both the yards and owners of the vessels upon which the accidents occurred are held to account,” says Ingvild Jenssen, Executive Director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
Last year, at least 14 workers lost their life at the Indian Alang shipbreaking yards. The exact number of fatalities is not available as local authorities do not share information — serious injuries are moreover rarely recorded, and occupational diseases, such as cancer, respiratory and skin diseases, are not documented at all.
Both Priya Blue and Shree Ram plots  were amongst the first yards to obtain so-called “Statements of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention” from Japanese ClassNK. Recently, they have been inspected by the European Commission to assess whether they comply with the requirements set in the EU Ship Recycling Regulation. Site inspection reports highlighting a series of deficiencies related to the cutting operations in the intertidal zone, downstream waste management, medical facilities and labour laws were published earlier this year. As a consequence, the yards, despite significant pressure from industry stakeholders, were not included in the EU list of approved ship recycling facilities. New inspections, also of additional yards, are expected to take place in the coming weeks.
The negative environmental impacts of the scrapping activities in Alang are now under scrutiny also in India. In August, the Indian Courts directed an environmental audit of the shipbreaking activities in Alang with a specific focus on the impacts of the beaching method. The directions were given in an appeal filed by Indian environmental group Conservation Action Trust (CAT), following an initial approval to expand the Alang shipbreaking area. The approval was issued despite government reports identifying the beaching method as the most polluting method.
Operating a heavy and hazardous industry on a tidal mudflat would never be allowed in the largest ship owning countries, including the EU. The many risks involved in taking large vessels apart need to be managed at sites that can safely use heavy lifting cranes, contain pollutants and dispose of hazardous materials in line with international waste laws. The beaching yards in Alang fail on all accounts.