Chittagong, where ships go to die

Bangladesh is one of the largest ships breaking country in the world. This happens there because Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries, environmental standard are very low, and workers are very cheep and willing to risk their life every day for few dollars.

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Sentine-2 image over Chittagong shore with several ships waiting for their demolition

In Bangladesh they break 150-200 ships per year. Like in an elephants’ graveyard, ships are driven close to the shore and abandoned by the big companies. Then the workers start to cut the hulls, later when the tide goes down they pull the big iron plates to the shore using winch machines and cut in small pieces so that they can be sent to the factories.

Ship dismantling in Chittagong – Photo: Andrew Holbrooke/Corbis

This work is entirely performed by poor workers who do not have any skill, any precaution nor safety equipment with them. According to the local authorities every month they register 60-70 incidents (with 10-15 casualties per year) in Chittagong shore. Most of them get injured falling down from the high decks or crushed by the iron plates, but several workers get also intoxicated by gases and toxic substances contained inside the wrecks.

Workers dragging sections cut from the hull – Photo: Sean Smith/The Guardian

The ship-breaking industry in Bangladesh has been widely condemned by international organizations; in particular for exposing low-paid workers to high levels of asbestos and contaminating the environment. Nevertheless it still persists.

Sentinel-2 images show the incredible scenario visible from space in a one-year animation over the Chittagong shore, the largest ship graveyard of the country. Tens of ships lie on the beach and look like small preys progressively devoured by invisible ants.

Sentinel-2 animation over Chittagong

In some images oil slicks leaking from the ships wrecks are clearly visible contaminating the sea and the environment. A closer animation shows better the process of dismantling in time. Ships gradually disappear under the dirty and dangerous work of thousands of workers.

Zoomed Sentinel-2 animation – ship appear progressively demolished by the workers.

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