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Maersk finds Alang wrecking beaches to be morally acceptable

MAERSK, which so far had refused to send its ships to the Alang ship breaking beaches in India due to strict Danish norms and eco-lobby pressure, has sent two ships to be scrapped there.

Maersk finds Alang wrecking beaches to be morally acceptable

MAERSK, which so far had refused to send its ships to the Alang ship breaking beaches in India due to strict Danish norms and eco-lobby pressure, has sent two ships to be scrapped there.

Maersk finds Alang wrecking beaches to be morally acceptable
27 October 2016 - 05:52

Maersk finds Alang wrecking beaches to be morally acceptable
MAERSK, which so far had refused to send its ships to the Alang ship breaking beaches in India due to strict Danish norms and eco-lobby pressure, has sent two ships to be scrapped there.
Alang is said to have appalling working conditions and a poor safety record with more than 50 people have died in Alang since 2010.
But a tightening of environmental norms, judicial pressure, rising fear of unions and NGOs - are now pushing Alang to upgrade how breaks ships and treats workers.
"You cannot stand on a pedestal, expecting everything to be perfect from the start. We need to engage and help improve things," said Maersk sustainability chief Annette Stube.
"We are pleasantly surprised. In such a short time, they (the recycler Shree Ram Group) have made good progress," she told New Delhi's Times of India.
In 1991, when per capita income stood at INR11,535 (US$173) and there were 332 million poor (today per capita income is INR93,293 and the number of poor has come down to 250 million), pre-liberalised India was struggling on multiple fronts. Not many - neither entrepreneurs nor the government - worried about safety, environment or pollution. 
"It was a totally unregulated industry. Even basic laws around minimum wages and Factories Act did not apply," said general secretary Vidyadhar Rane of the Alang Sosiya Ship Recycling and General Workers' Association (ASSRGWA), who began working with Alang workers in 2005.
Today, ASSRGWA has 15,000 members. Shipbreaking is recognised as an industry and rules around minimum wages and the Factories Act are now applicable to the shipyards. 
In 2005, the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) helped set up the Gujarat Eco-Textile Park (GETP), which manages a 17-acre waste park where hazardous and other wastes - like glass wool and asbestos - from shipyards are recycled, disposed or stored in a secure manner.
Site head Ashish Mehta of GETP said the facility has handled 45,000 tonnes of waste so far and could handle shipyard waste for 10 more years. Earlier, most workers learnt on the job. Now, GMB's Safety Training and Welfare Institute provides basic training and has trained 10,000 workers over 10 years.
In 2009, the first regulatory codes were spelt out in what is called the Hong Kong Convention (HKC). India did not ratify the code. In 2013, stirred into action by the Supreme Court, the government announced a ship recycling code with strict norms.
Those norms may not be good enough. In 2014, 13 workers died in accidents in Alang shipyards. There is now pressure on India to ratify the HKC. That and a slew of other factors promise to improve the way Alang operates.
So far, Alang was off the radar due to substandard yards and censure from global activists, but since Maersk sent its first two ships to Alang in April, many more are expected in future. 
Companies could save anywhere between US$1.5 million and $2 million per vessel by scrapping its ships in India rather than in yards in countries like Turkey and China.

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