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Shipwreckers

Since the 1970s, ninety-five percent of the 700 ships being decommissioned each year end their lives in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Most of these ships go to the Indian shipyard in Alang, but the true giants go to the Chittagong shipyard in Bangladesh. There are no docks, no concrete piers, no scaffolding, no cranes. In reality, it hardly qualifies as a shipyard at all. But despite its rough exterior, this beach is a thriving work zone that oversees the dismantling of about 70 ships a year. A worn out ship still in running shape is worth millions, yielding an average value of 110 to 150 dollars per ton. These ships are the sole source of raw materials for the metallurgical industry of Bangladesh, providing steel for construction, a huge benefit for a country devoid of natural resources. The shipyard’s owners are Chittagong businessmen, often linked to the steel industry. They seldom visit the beach in person, entrusting direct management to contracted specialists, who hire and manage swarms of workers to dismantle the ships. There are between 25 to 100 thousand of these workers on any given day. But the job is very dangerous. They use outdated and hazardous technologies to break up the ships and are paid very little to do so. But the Chittagong shipyard workers endure with surprising dignity, calm, and perseverance. They can provide for their entire families through this work. And despite the current world economic crisis, the ship wrecking industry in the Gulf of Bengal is still thriving.

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By  VNW