Iron crows

Port shipbreakers, Bangladesh

PHP is the best-conditioned ship-breaking site in Chittagong, home to the world-renowned ship breaking industry. However, the workers risk their lives while wrestling with thousands of tonnes of iron pieces at the yards, which are full of asbestos and toxic gases. There is always a chance of an explosion while burning the waste oils trapped in stacks of iron. The workers could easily get crushed and killed while cutting or moving iron plates.

Rufik, 49, is the head of a six-member family. His income as a skilled gas cutter is $50 a month. Although he spends his days off in the woods, one-and-a-half hours’ walk away, gathering firewood, his income is never enough to pay for his daughter's wedding. A baby daughter is born blind to 21-year-old Belal while working with his younger brother in Chittagong. Belal almost lost his life by a heavy iron piece falling toward him. However, he can’t afford to go home to see his newborn baby.

Most workers are from the north, the poorest part of Bangladesh that suffers from the chronic f
loods and cyclones. Those who collect waste oils and toxic asbestos are 12-year-young laborers. The young boys also pull heavy metal wires. Despite the poor meals without much nutrition they eat in the dirty dormitory, the boys are happy for feeding their hungry stomachs. Nothing from a dismantled old ship is a waste. A rusty piece of iron and even waste oils mixed with mud are all recycled and sold through auctions. Half of the world’s retired ships are dismantled in Chittagong. Its ship-breaking industry provides 85 per cent of the domestic needs of iron in Bangladesh, where none is produced.

One day a new retired ship comes to PHP. This life risking ship-breaking job is a hope for the workers and their families.

Directed by Bong-Nam Park

Produced by Frontline News Service – CreativEast

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