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Workers at Alang in Gujarat "exposed" to toxic fumes, risk explosions when torch-cutting in T-shirts: Danish report

By Our Representative
An investigative report, claimed to be comprehensive, says that there are breaches of labour rights, workers exposed to grave risks for their health and safety, and severe environmental pollution caused by the breaking of ships in the intertidal zone of the Alang Shipbreaking Yard in Gujarat.
Released by “Danwatch”, a Denmark-based independent media and research centre that focuses on corporate social responsibility, human rights, environment and conflict areas, the report says that shipbreaking practices at Alang do not even remotely meet international standards.
Especially referring to the dismantling on Maersk Georgia and Maersk Wyoming, the two Danish ships which are currently being dismantled at Alang, the report talks of “unacceptable conditions” in the beaching facility at the shipbreaking year, which Maersk has been “praising for its alleged high standards.”
The report documents workers without contracts, who endanger their health and lives when exposed to toxic fumes, risking explosions when torch-cutting in only T-shirts.
Pointing out that Maersk’s "trial and error approach" in India is seriously flawed, Patrizia Heidegger, executive director of the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, in a statement supporting the Danwatch report has said that “the conditions under which the Maersk ships are being broken are even worse than what we expected.”
Criticizing Maersk for its “U-turn from state-of-the-art ship recycling back to the beaching yards in India”, the Platform says, “Over many months, the Platform has shared its concerns with the shipping line. The Platform’s detailed critique of the Maersk 'Responsible Ship Recycling Standard' highlights why the standard is far too weak to ensure the health and safety of workers and to provide safeguards against pollution.”
“Not only have NGOs warned Maersk of the serious risks, the shipping line itself commissioned a report on the pitfalls of breaking ships in the intertidal zone”, the Platform says, adding, “Danish consultancy Litehauz highlighted severe pollution risks and the lack of solutions on the Alang beaches.”
The Danish consultancy talks of “huge investments to build adequate infrastructure would be necessary in Alang”, questioning “commercial viability of investing in beaching yards, especially because some of the problems are likely to be impossible to solve in the intertidal zone”, the Platform says.
“Despite the warnings, Maersk chose to ignore the concerns of environmental and human rights experts”, it points out, adding, “Maersk expects to make an extra profit of 150 million USD by selling off an estimated 70-100 ships to the beaching yards. While masking their U-turn as a ‘good deed’ for India, Maersk has not invested a single penny in new infrastructure in Alang.”
“Danish experts with whom the journalists have shared their documentation were shocked to see the serious risks for workers’ health and safety as well as the grave environmental impact of Maersk’s practices in Alang”, the Platform says, adding, “Had this happened in Denmark, the yard would have been closed on the spot, they say.”
”The Danwatch revelations clearly show the wide discrepancy between the industry’s greenwashed presentation of Alang and the factual conditions in the yards”, the Platform says.
It adds, “Members of the Danish Parliament, led by Pia Olsen Dyhr, former Minister of Trade and Transport, have requested the Environment Minister to respond to whether Maersk has put pressure on the Danish government to promote the Alang beaching yards at the European level.”
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