WTF? Vessel Too Toxic for Bangladeshi Ship Breakers Sent to UK
Image by Flickr user Peter_32

Ship breakers in Bangladesh toil in conditions that resemble hell on earth, breaking rusting hulks by hand for little more than a dollar a day. But should we allow a former French aircraft carrier considered too dangerous for even these workers to be sent to the UK – complete with 700 tons of asbestos?

Tankers, trawlers, freighters and destroyers – smashed, cut, rusting and smoking – are packed close together from left to right, stranded in various stages of demolition along six miles of beach. 35, 000 men swarm over their ghostly remains, dissecting them with little more than their hands before carrying twisted plates of metal, each weighing more than a ton, like pallbearers from the shoreline to waiting trucks – trucks decorated by the men with images of paradise, where they’d like to be.

They left their villages, lured by wages that start at $1 a day, to work these dangerous jobs protected only by their scarves and sandals. Broken ankles, severed fingers, smashed skulls and a range of horrifying diseases from cholera to dysentery are every day facts of life, yet nobody keeps track of how many are burned or drowned – they only know that every day somebody dies.
Image by Flickr user Peter_32

These men are willing to work in some of the worst conditions on earth for a meagre wage, yet now a ship too toxic for even them is being sent to breakers on Teeside in the UK.

The 32, 700 ton Clemenceau – once the pride of the French navy – has spent the past five years being moved around as officials tried to find a final resting place for the vessel which contains 700 tonnes of asbestos. President Chirac recalled the ship from Indian waters two years ago after the furious Socialist opposition embarrassed him over the decision to send France’s waste abroad while “lecturing the world on the environment”.

The ship will be broken up instead by Able UK, which caused an outcry when it brought four rusting US ghost ships to its dock in Hartlepool in 2003. Campaigners against the arrival of the ships claim the firm is making the country a dumping ground for foreign waste, however, after years of legal wrangling, Able has convinced the Health and Safety Executive it has the expertise to carry out the dangerous work and won planning permission to break the ships.
Image by Flickr user lofidelity

The campaigners may say we shouldn’t make Britain the dumping ground for other countries’ waste, yet surely its safer for both humans and the environment if such a toxic ship is recycled by well-equipped experts in the UK, rather than legions of ill-equipped and desperate Bangladeshis who claim “it is better to work and die than starve and die.”?

Sources 1,2.