At least five workers have died in a fire onboard an LPG container ship at the Gadani shipbreaking yard in Pakistan on 9 January, in yet another deadly incident at the yard. Despite scores of fatalities at Gadani in the last few months, no measures have been taken to improve safety.
An estimated 100 workers were dismantling the ship at plot no. 60 when the blaze started and had to be rescued by lifeboat. A fire erupted on the same ship just two weeks ago, although that time there were no casualties.
The ship’s owner, Dewan Rizwan, a former Chairman of the Gadani Shipbreaking Owners Association, fled from the shipyard when the fire broke out. He was later detained by police in the nearby city of Hub.
The workers who died were Muhammad Saeed, Said Khan, Alif Khan, Naimat Shah and Sabir. They are all from the districts of Swat and Tehsil Qalat. Another worker was injured.
Nasir Mansoor, from IndustriALL affiliate the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan (NTUF), said:
There has been no respite from accidents, injuries and deaths despite the claims of improvement in occupational health and safety measures at the Gadani ship breaking yards. Safety is one of the most neglected areas in shipbreaking.
Officials from the environment department said a chemical foam inside the ship was responsible for the fire. All combustibles should be removed from a ship before work is started to prevent accidents.
Just one day before of this incident, a young worker called Dilshad lost his life when he slipped from top of a ship at plot no.69 on 8 January. On 1 November, the Gadani yard witnessed one of its worst industrial accidents when at least 26 workers lost their lives and 40 were injured in an oil tanker fire. Four workers are still missing.
Despite government and employer claims of improvements in occupational health and safety, there has been no respite from accidents, injuries and deaths at the Gadani yard.
IndustriALL’s director for shipbreaking, Kan Matsuzaki, said:
Workers cannot wait a moment longer for health and safety reforms. The government and employers must act now. The same deadly mistakes are being repeated time and again while workers are being sent to slaughter at the shipbreaking yards.
IndustriALL wrote to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, in November calling on the government to ensure safe working conditions in shipbreaking yards and ratify the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships.
NTUF has been successful in securing compensation for the injured and families of the of the 1 November tragedy. However, promises from government to improve health and safety at the Gadani yard have not come to fruition.