July 24, 2007

European Commission Decides to Stop Exporting Ships for Breaking in Bangladesh

Saw this report earlier today in the Financial Express, but I'm reproducing the link here because I'm not sure how dependable the Express's links system is. (It's archiving system is NOT user-friendly!).

"Such a ban will not be an welcome news for the growing local ship-breaking industry in Chittagong as around 40 per cent of old ships are imported from the European Union (EU) member countries" it quotes an official as saying.

I don't know much about this issue and would love it if some of my readers took the time to educate me. What caught my eye were these two particular line:

"Ship-breaking industry leaders presume that international propaganda about the safety issue of labourers in the yards may have influenced the EC to impose such ban"


"SBA (Ship Breaking Association) chairman Jafar Alam said India will be benefited most from such a EC move as the local steel industry will have to rely on the neighbour for the import of billet and iron ores" (Italics mine)

I did find this pictorial in Foreign Policy, and have heard about bad working conditions there before. I also found this Drishtipat initiative from last year. I hope no one thinks that banning ship export is a viable policy in helping these workers. It's clear from the DP blog post that they don't advocate for that (correct me if I'm wrong). I also found Greenpeace pinpointing India as one of the offenders as well.

So question #1 is, how come the EC did not take a similar measure vis a vis India?

Question #2, given that Pakistan and China are also competitors, why is the SBA so eager to pin-point India? Another counterproductive attempt at shifting the focus away from workers' conditions?

Question #3, ship-building comes to us not because we are cost-effective, but because our laws are less stringent than those of the "first world". In that case, why not invest in worker's safety and health and thus take away the EC's or the Indian lobby's (take your pick) ammunition?

Once again, I'd highly appreciate my reader's educating me on this. All I know is that the EC decision is going to affect 25,000 workers who are already risking their health and safety everyday.

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