Since the start of 2022, out of the eighteen accidents that shook the Bangladeshi shipbreaking industry, six have taken place at yards owned by Kabir Steel Re-Rolling Mills (KSRM), a concern of large conglomerate Kabir Group, reported NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
This series of accidents follows years of tragic deaths and injuries at Kabir’s yards. In 2020, three accidents took the lives of three workers and impaired another three. In 2021, out of five incidents at KSRM yards, one was fatal, research from the NGO showed. Despite the repeated interventions of the Bangladesh Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments and the Ministry of Industries, which included a ban on operations and imports at one of the KSRM yards for four months, Kabir’s management continues to put the lives of workers at risk, NGO Shipbreaking Platform said in a statement on 2 June.
“In what seems to be a new worrying trend, several accidents are occurring on board offshore structures, such as Floating Storage and Offloading (FSO) and Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSOs) units. These vessels present additional risks for shipbreaking workers, mainly due to their complex design and the presence of highly toxic contaminants, including Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) and mercury,” noted the NGO.
Since 2021, there have been ten accidents on offshore units beached in Bangladesh, added the group.
“Vulnerable human beings are paying the price with their lives, whilst big corporations fill their pockets with money. Whilst weak regulations and poor law enforcement allow ship owners to choose the easiest and dirtiest way to dispose of their toxic waste on the beaches of South Asia, clean and safe solutions are already available at facilities that use slip ways, dry docks, or floating docks. Companies like Shell and SBM Offshore, which have adopted an ‘off the beach policy’, show that doing the right thing is possible,” said Nicola Mulinaris, senior communication, and policy advisor, at NGO Shipbreaking Platform.
KSRM was already in the spotlight for its involvement in the infamous CMB case in 2016, which also hit British banking and financial services company Standard Chartered for having granted to Kabir letters of credit or loans for the import of end-of-life vessels. Kabir’s track record remains deplorable, and yet, according to local sources, Standard Charter’s involvement with Kabir has not been terminated, said the NGO.
“All corporations have an obligation to conduct human rights due diligence throughout their supply chain. KRSM’s repeated failure to protect its workers from the many risks involved in ship recycling has resulted in the death of six people and the impairment of at least another seven since 2020. It should be of utmost concern to any financial institution claiming to take Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues seriously to be associated with such appalling practices,” Ingvild Jenssen, executive director, NGO Shipbreaking Platform.