Shipbreaking guidelines for safer work 'Taking shape'

A tripartite ILO meeting taking place in Bangkok is making ‘good progress’ in the revision of guidelines aimed at responsible ship dismantling and the provision for improved safety and health in ship breaking.

Press release | Bangkok, Thailand | 11 October 2003

BANGKOK (ILO News) – A tripartite International Labour Organization (ILO) meeting taking place in Bangkok is making ‘good progress’ in the revision of guidelines aimed at responsible ship dismantling and the provision for improved safety and health in ship breaking.

Representatives from government, employers’ and workers’ groups from Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan and Turkey are working on the guidelines with the support of experts on international standards from Canada, the Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.

Experts backed an additional provision, proposed by the United States, for the guidelines to deal with the preparation of emergency plans that will provide useful guidance for emergency situations arising in ship breaking operations. Participants agreed that night work is hazardous, however, it was acknowledged that at some sites it was impractical to avoid varying levels of night work due to a number of factors, including climatic or geographical conditions. Participants agreed that while night work should be discouraged, if carried out it should comply with ILO Conventions and Recommendations.

Carl A. Halgren, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States’ Department of Labour said, "it is important to recognize that the tripartite arrangement shows that whatever the parties agree upon will be an important outcome".

"The guidelines will be solid and, if followed, will lead to improved occupational safety and health [OSH] in shipbreaking operations. It is important to recognize that different authorities will have to try and implement them within different frameworks, but ultimately the guidelines will provide a useful base upon which to build."

"Ship breaking on the beaches in Asian countries, of course, represents the downside of globalization," says ILO expert Paul Bailey. "After industrialized countries of the western world are through using their ships, they get scrapped on beaches without dry-dock facilities or safety measures for workers. The challenge facing us is how this can be done in a safer manner. It will never be perfect but improvements can be made, and the guidelines under consideration this week will hopefully represent a practical development."

The meeting aims at the establishment of sound national frameworks for responsible ship dismantling and the provision of support for improved safety and health in shipbreaking by:

  • Applying relevant ILO international instruments and codes of practice
  • Enhancing social dialogue in OSH
  • Strengthening national legislation and enforcing OSH standards; and
  • Assisting comprehensive technical cooperation projects aimed at national and enterprise levelsgovernments, employers and workers through the execution of

Effective shipbreaking largely depends on how the vessel is prepared for dismantling. Although the maritime industry is very well regulated, the end of a vessel’s life and its dismantling are not comprehensively covered.

The activities of the Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Basel Convention (United Nations’ Environmental Programme [UNEP]) on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal are both highly relevant. In light of this situation, senior representatives of these international organizations are actively participating in the meeting.

An award-winning video produced by the ILO was shown during the second day of the meeting. The Shipbreakers looks at the ship breaking yards of Bangladesh and India, where workers can be unwitting victims of gas explosions or tons of falling steel.

"Workers in Gaddani [in Pakistan] lack basic medical facilities, union representation, their own residential areas, or clean drinking water. If they are injured, they can receive first aid nearby, but if it is serious they have to be taken to Karachi, some 40 kilometres away," said Moosa Khan, Organizing Secretary of the Pakistan National Federation of

Trade Unions. "Unfortunately, many seriously injured workers die on the journey to the city hospital."

"If adopted by government, employers’ and workers’ groups, these guidelines should ultimately help improve the working conditions for those employed in this hazardous occupation," Khan said, adding that the guidelines would help governments in the region develop appropriate national policies to help enforce safer working conditions.

It is anticipated that the guidelines will be adopted on Tuesday (14 October), when the meeting is scheduled to end.

For further information on the guidelines under consideration, please visit:


Interview slots may be arranged with the following:

Paul J. Bailey, Senior Industrial Specialist, Sectoral Activities Department, ILO
Dr Igor Fedotov M.D., SAFEWORK, ILO
Captain Moin Ahmed, Chairman of the Meeting,
International Maritime Organization (IMO)
Dachang Du, Senior Deputy Director, Marine Environment Division
International Maritime Organization (IMO)
Ibrahim Shafii, Secretariat of the Basel Convention/ United Nations’ Environment Programme (UNEP)

Including : Night Work Convention 1990 (No.171)
                Night Work Recommendation 1990 (No.178)