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Environmental Impact

Asbestos and POPs:

Asbestos was utilized for heat insulation in old ships, specifically ships constructed during the last century. Scrapyard workers and the surrounding environment are exposed to asbestos fibers during scrapping since there are no measures yet adopted to dispose and separate asbestos. Hence, there are serious implications as asbestos fiber exposure, even at very low concentrations can lead to cancer. Asbestos fibers and flocks float in the open air on ship-breaking beaches. Workers remove asbestos insulating materials using their bare hands. It has also proven to be one of the deadliest pollutants, as inhaling asbestos fibers can induce a variety of respiratory disorders, including asthma and asbestosis (especially if inhaled), as well as mesothelioma.
POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) are highly toxic chemicals, remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, bio-accumulates through the food web, accumulate within the fatty tissue of living organisms, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to the human population, wildlife, and the environment. There has been a realization that these pollutants, upon exposure to humans can cause serious health effects ranging from increased incidence of cancers to disruption of the hormonal system. Scrapped ships are infested with many POPs such as Polychlorinated Biphenyl Compounds (PCBs), Dioxins, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), Organotins, etc.

Coastal Contamination:

Various garbage and disposable materials are released and spilled off scraped ships in ship-breaking areas, and they frequently combine with the beach soil. The scrap from the ships is spread about randomly on the beach, accumulating metal shards and rust in the soil. These, along with substantial human and mechanical activities, are frequently carried out as usual work for the scrapping of ships in that area, causing the beach soil to lose its binding properties, expediting the rate and amount of coastal erosion and raising the turbidity of the area's seawater. The critical concentration of DO and higher BOD, Fe, TDS, TSS are found with an abundance of floatable materials (grease balls and oil films) in the seawater. Owing to the toxic concentration of ammonia, marine organisms found in the adjacent seawater were diagnosed with increased PH levels. Oil spillage from obsolete ships during the recycling process also causes serious damage to marine plants and other aquatic lives like Seabirds, Fish, Turtles, Marine Mammals, and other animals. This recycling practice has multiple adverse effects on the biodiversity of that adjunct area. Another concern is the deterioration of the soil quality within and along the nearby coastlines where ship recycling operation is carried out. Owing to the continuous soil contamination, the natural soil texture is compromised, thus reducing soil nutrient levels to a great level which in turn reduces the crop raising facilities. Many farmers within these areas have reported that they are unable to produce any high-yield variety of cultivable crops since the soil quality is greatly hampered as a result of metallic and adverse elemental contamination.

Heavy Metals

Heavy metals can be found in paints, coatings, anodes, and electrical equipment like capacitors, circuits, and switchboards along with the piping systems, among other places on the ships. These are dismantled and reused with no precautionary safeguarding on spot. Direct contact of the workers with these equipment results in bit-by-bit exposure to unsafe toxins and heavy metals which may also include radioactive materials to a limited or little extent. Lung cancer, skin cancer, intestinal cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, and bladder cancer are all possible outcomes of such exposure. It also has the potential to harm blood vessels. Metals like Copper (Cu), Lead (Pb), Arsenic, Chromium (Cr), Mercury (Hg), and Zinc (Zn) are rich in obsolete ships and they get easily dissipated in the water and soil and also affects human lives.

Policy and Regulations

  1. Guidelines for the Development of the Inventory of Hazardous Materials, adopted by resolution MEPC.197(62), 2011  

  2. Guidelines for the Development of the Ship Recycling Plan, adopted by resolution MEPC.196(62), 2011;

  3. Guidelines for Safe and Environmentally Sound Ship Recycling, adopted by resolution MEPC.210(63), 2012 ;

  4. Guidelines for the Authorization of Ship Recycling Facilities, adopted by resolution MEPC.211(63), 2012

  5. NEMAP (National Environment Management Action Plan) Guidelines

  6. The Ship Breaking and Recycling Rules Guidelines (Ministry of Industries, Govt. of Bangladesh)  

  7. ILO (International Labor Organization) Portal on Occupational Safety and Health in Bangladesh, 2019

  8. The Hong Kong International Convention for Safe and Environmentally Sound Ship Recycling 

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