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Shipbreakers die at ‘The Love Boat’ in Turkey

15 August, 2013Two workers die and nine are injured in result of smoke inhalation while dismantling the MS Pacific ship also known as The Love Boat in Izmir, Turkey.

The cruise ship came to Turkey on 6 August for disassembly. On its way from Genoa due to severe storm the ship was damaged and the engine room was flooded with water. While draining water out of the engine room on 10 August workers inhaled smoke released from a plumbing fixture’s exhaust pipe. All victims were transported to nearby hospitals. Nine workers were discharged one day later, but two other, Doğan Balcı, 37, and Davut Özdemir, 40, died from smoke poisoning.

An investigation has been started by the prosecutor. According to his relatives, one of the perished workers, Balcı had already suffered from smoke inhalation in the same place two days before the tragedy, but was provided only outpatient treatment.

The MS Pacific, is a cruise ship built in 1971 in West Germany, which became famous after appearance in the popular U.S. romantic sitcom “The Love Boat” in 1970s. The 42- year-old vessel was acquired for 2.5 million euros by the company Izmir Ship Recycling Co. for dismantling in the seaside town of Aliaga.

Aliaga is one of the specialized shipbreaking areas near Izmir. Reportedly there are some 25 shipbreaking companies operating in the in the area, but with no union presence. Local community and NGOs, including Greenpeace, try to facilitate union organizing there, but face a huge resistance from employers.

Turkey is the fourth largest shipbreaking country in the world and a subject of ILO’s ‘Safety and health in shipbreaking: Guidelines for Asian countries and Turkey’, set up in 2004 and designed to assist shipbreakers and competent authorities to implement the relevant provisions of ILO standards, codes of practice and other guidelines on occupational safety and health and working conditions.

Despite declarations of the Turkish government about dramatic improvements of the occupational health and safety conditions both in shipbuilding and shipbreaking industry, the workers are still facing many serious/fatal accidents.

In 2011 Turkey hosted XIX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, however the Prime Minister Erdogan is yet to deliver on his promises made at the Congress http://www.issa.int/content/download/153577/3064987/file/2-PM-erdogan-speech.pdf .

Earlier reports of IndustriALL (ex-IMF) about other occupational accidents in Turkey can be found at http://www.imfmetal.org/index.cfm?c=29035&l=2  and http://www.imfmetal.org/index.cfm?c=21680&l=2 .