Concern over growing number of accidents in India’s shipyards

At least eleven workers lost their lives after a 70-crane jetty crane collapsed on them and crushed them to death in Visakhapatnam based Hindustan Shipyard Limited last month. The accident and delay in investigation has reaffirmed the ongoing crisis in shipyards

September 02, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Credit : IANS

Activists groups including Global IndustriALL Union have raised concern over the growing number of accidents due to poor safety measures of India’s ship breaking industry. At least 11 workers were killed on August 1, when a 70-tonne jetty crane fell over them at Hindustan Shipyard Limited in Visakhapatnam, a port city in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The tragic accident yet again reaffirmed the ongoing crisis in India’s shipyards.  

Most of the victims who lost their lives were contract workers. Five others were critically injured in the same accident. At the time, a case of “death caused due to negligence” was filed by the police against Hindustan Shipyard Limited, Gujarat-based Anupam industries and Greenfields corporation, all of which are considered to be India’s premier shipyards, whose operations include repairing, ship building, submarine construction, refitting as well as design and construction of offshore and onshore structures.  

On August 31, labour unions reiterated that the investigation should be completed and those responsible for the accident should be held accountable. “The public sector company should take the responsibility of securing the lives of thousands of its workers at the workplace”, said Global IndustriALL Union in its statement. 

Estimates from last year suggest as many as 14 workers lost their lives at the Indian Alang shipbreaking yards. The total number of deaths in the ship breaking industry are unavailable. Authorities are often reluctant to share these figures.

Labour unions say the side which gets overlooked by the management and the authorities is occupational diseases associated with ship breaking work. Studies show these workers are susceptible to cancer, respiratory and skin diseases

In 2019, Hindustan Shipyard company admitted to having outsourced its “defect checking and performing load trials” work to another subsidiary ship breaking company. However, the work on the crane — initially built by Anupam Industries in 2009 — was not complete and the crane was sent for repair to the Greenfield corporation, which is the company being held responsible for the accident. 

The Global IndustriALL Union report added the International Labour Organisation revised their code on safety and health in shipbuilding and ship repair recently. The code suggests various ways in which health and safety measures can be improved in the industry and the role of the government, shipowners, employers, workers and their representatives.