Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Ship A Day, A Death A Day

America Public Media's Marketplace did a story Friday called "Dead ships, toxic business" about how breaking up decommissioned ships has become big business for the city of Alang, on the northwest coast of India.
This is where the world sends its ships to die. American cruise liners and Soviet war tankers are belched up on this gray industrial shore like whale carcasses.

Workers wrench apart their toxic insides: steel plates insulated with asbestos, and engine rooms filled with PCBs. The wood will be resold and reappear later, as hotel room furniture. The steel will be melted down and refashioned as water pipes and refrigerators.

At the height of India's ship breaking industry, the motto at Alang was "a ship a day, a death a day" — and that referred to the number of workers killed.
Protests by enviromental and workplace safety advocates have improved conditions, but also sent much of the shipbreaking work to less regulated countries -- Pakistan and Bangladesh.