Shipbreaking involves dismantling aging ships. Disassembled parts are reused or sold as scrap. This method removes all ship sections or cuts down the entire structure on a pier. Pakistan’s Gaddani shipbreaking yard is one of the world’s three largest. Gaddani has clean seas and lovely sands. It is one of Pakistan’s most gorgeous beaches. Shipbreaking and a beautiful beach are its hallmarks.
Gaddani has the world’s 3rd largest shipbreaking industry, competing with Bangladesh’s Chittagong shipbreaking yard, the 1st most massive, and India’s Alang shipbreaking yard, the 2nd.
Gaddani is 40 kilometers northwest of Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest metropolis. Gaddani Shipbreaking yard’s coastal channel is about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). The yard breaks ships on 132 plots. Shipbreaking deconstructs a ship for reuse. Shipbreaking produces great metal and scrap pieces. It uses various boat components. Ship breakdowns release metal pipes, oil containers, gears, gas lines, sheets, scrap metal, and tons of wood. Nearly 1.5 million tons of steel and 20–25 tones of wood are rescued and shipped locally to Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, and virtually to China.
Bangladesh was the best at breaking down ships in 2022, even though the number of ship-breaking operations dropped by 65%. Bangladesh went from having 8.02 million tonnes of goods to having 2.8 million tons in the months before January 2023. From January to March 2023, a total of 102 ships were broken down. India had the most, with 37 ships, followed by Bangladesh with 35 ships. The EU and ROW came in third, with 18 ships. Turkey and Pakistan both took apart six ships.
The Gaddani ship-breaking yard opened in 1947. It grew a lot in the 1980s when more than 30,000 people were working there. The sand on the beach is hard and not too soft or muddy, so the ships can stay put. This is why a lot of yards were built there. When ships arrive at Gaddani Beach, they are often in pretty bad shape; they are often shaky and barely work at all. In addition to the damage to their structures, they also have to deal with dangerous waste like the fuel in their tanks or the oil residue, broken equipment, and toxic sludge. It’s also deadly and risky to be about. In November 2016, a gas tank burst in the yard, killing 14 people and hurting 65 others.
A second incident happened in which an LPG carrier caught fire; 100 employees were present at the time, but fortunately, no injuries were reported. These incidents have raised concerns for the security and safety of the employees; they require the implementation of a policy to ensure their safety. In 2018, however, the Gaddani ship-breaking shipyard was confronted with another cargo ship conflagration. The world’s three greatest shipbreaking yards are located in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, all in Southeast Asia because labor is relatively inexpensive and health regulations are not an issue.
The vast sand of Gaddani, a great industry, is also a place of death. One can die quite quickly here; One can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gigantic scraps of sharp metals are welcome to slice, huge metal pieces are dangling above, can see the asbestos on the metal all around. International Law and Policy Institute (ILPI), an Oslo-based independent institute focusing on good governance, international law, and peace and conflict, notes in its May 2016 report titled Shipbreaking Practices in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan: “Hazardous substances and wastes, as well as physical, mechanical, biological, ergonomic and psychological hazards” are difficult to dodge and duck here.
Pakistan breaks down ships much older than India or Bangladesh; their older ships have toxic substances on them, or their paint contains poisonous chemicals contaminating the waters.
Pakistan is a signatory of the ‘Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal’ a convention that has defined certain materials as hazardous, and they have prevented them from being exported to the developing states due to these states having no safety measures. Some certain laws or policies ban the import of hazardous waste as it is defined in the Basel Convention. But how is this of concern to the shipbreaking yard? According to the international waste shipment law, an entire ship can be classified as waste under Article 2 of the Basel Convention. The government must keep a closer look at the types of ships that are being brought to the Yard.
Although due to the 2016 incident in 2017, the ban was imposed, the workers are not completely safe as they are not using safety measures or no protocols for a safe working environment are put in place. Because of this, the place will keep suffering from various health and safety risks. The environment will also suffer as the clear water, and the golden sand will become toxic from the oil spillage, and the water, air, and marine life that resides in the sea will suffer greatly. Our neighbor India is much better at this, as India attracts almost 30 percent of the shipbreaking of the entire globe.
It provides a safe and healthy environment for its workers, and the introduction of the Recycling of Ships Acts 2019 will allow India to attract almost 60 percent of the global shipbreaking business. This report, together with health and labor rights abuses, caused the government to stop ship-breaking in the Gaddani Ship-breaking yard. Even while it gave the Federal and the Baluchistan governments about 12 billion in taxes, it left thousands of workers unemployed. The Pakistan Ship Breaking Association urged the government to repeal the restriction, guaranteeing safety measures.
Pakistan should not announce a new ship-breaking yard in Gawadr to boost business.
Instead, better safety policies, better shipbreaking standards, and working with ships that would cause more environmental damage or risk to workers should be implemented. As the world’s 3rd biggest shipbreaking yard, substantial work remains to address health and safety problems. Better safety practices and EPA participation are needed. This sector must improve to return big money to Pakistan.
The author is an International Relations scholar at Minhaj University Lahore, specializing in Foreign Policy Analysis, Strategic Studies, and Maritime Research. With a keen interest in understanding global dynamics, the author brings a unique perspective to these fields, contributing valuable insights to the discourse on international affairs.