The Shipbreaking Industry 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen

 

 

A Pulitzer-prize winning expose of the shipbreaking industry appeared in the Baltimore Sun between December 7-9, 1997. It presented a horrific picture of appalling conditions in Americaís depressed ports and Indian shipbreaking yards. The wholesale sell-off of obsolete warships by the US Navy has contributed to the growth of a flourishing industry which is often unregulated, unsupervised and plagued by official indifference. The reporters described: cover-ups at Terminal Island, California where twenty labourers were fired for informing federal investigators that asbestos was being improperly removed from Naval ships, contamination by asbestos, oil and lead of a riverside scrapyard in Wilmington, North Carolina, attempts orchestrated by employers to hide asbestos from inspectors in a derelict barge in Baltimore and workers on-board the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea stripping asbestos insulation with their bare hands. Fermin Castillo, a worker at Baltimoreís Seawitch Salvage yard, said: "There was asbestos all around us. At first they just stacked it on top of the ship. There was always a lot of dust in the air." Conditions in Brownsville, Texas, where the nearest government enforcement officials are hundreds of miles away, are notorious; the predominantly Latino workforce, desperate for work, remains uninformed of the risks. Pedro Rios, a steel-cutter for more than twenty years, says: "Itís out of need we do this. I got this job because I donít know how to read or write. You could say this is a job for the dumb." The conditions in eleven salvage yards in Alang, Suchana and Darukhana, India are, if possible, even worse. The $500 million industry employs forty thousand men, many of whom work for $1.50 a day. Along the beach in Alang, tankers, freighters, destroyers and fish processors from all over the world are scrapped by men wearing sandals and scarves rather than respirators and protective clothing.

This article can be accessed at:
http://www.sunspot.net/news/custom/shipbreakers/ndx_fr.shtml

August 30, 2001

 

 

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