Ship‐Breaking in Developing Countries: A Requiem for Environmental Justice from the Perspective of Bangladesh by Md Saiful Karim Published by Routledge, 2018, 150 pp., £115, hardback.

Published date01 April 2019
AuthorAbul Hasanat
Date01 April 2019
Published by Routledge, 2018, 150 pp., £115, hardback.
This is the latest book in the IMLI Studies in International Maritime
Law book series published by Routledge. In the book, Karim presents
an analytical discourse on environmental justice concerning ship-
breaking in Bangladesh. It draws upon two themes: the dispropor-
tionate burden of environmental risk and the lack of effectiveness of
the environmental regulatory regime. Regarding those industries, the
two issues ultimately arrive at the obvious conclusion of injustice at
the individual and global levels. The book, which is organized into six
chapters, explores the defects and discrepancies in the relevant
national and international instruments that have failed to develop a
just legal system for the shipbreaking business in Bangladesh.
In the introductory chapter, the author describes the current
scenario of shipbreaking operations that exact a huge human and
environment cost in the country. Initially, he points out that invest-
ors select Bangladesh for several reasons: leniency in environmental
enforcement; more care for the interests of investors than labour
rights; and widespread corruption. This chapter reminds the readers
of the International Labour Organization guidelines regarding the
health and safety of labourers in response to the frequent accidents
and inhuman treatment they face in shipbreaking yards. It also raises
concern for other occupational rights and privileges including their
wages, leave, medical care and freedom of association.
The issue of environmental justiceis explained at the beginning
of the second chapter. Karim, quite relevantly, puts the concept of
environmental justice in the context of Amartya Sen'sidea of justice,
which suggests that an assessment of justice should take into account
nyaya(realized justice) alongside the role of niti (laws and institu-
tions). He also suggests that a realizationfocused perspectivedoes
not aspire to a perfect system, but rather one that prevents the
redressable injustices in the society.
Similarly, the author contends
that the clear and remediable violations of environmental rights of the
workers should be prevented to ensure justice in the shipbreaking
sector in Bangladesh. These workers are required to bear the main
burden of environmental risk associated with this activity, as they
have little choice or alternatives. To enable them to enjoy environ-
mental justice, there must be provision for some basic rights such as
equality, literacy, participation in policymaking and access to justice.
From a global perspective, Bangladesh also assumes a disproportion-
ate environmental burden in comparison to the developed countries
who send their obsolete ships to the country for scrapping or recy-
cling. Thus, as Karim argues, they do not dispose of these ships in
their own countries, rather they adopt a costbenefit approach,
bypassing established international environmental law principles such
as those of prevention or the polluter pays. On the other hand, Ban-
gladesh receives ships in pursuit of its economic development, ignor-
ing concerns over the environmental ramifications and the safety of
labourers. Accordingly, reflecting the plight of its labourers, it too has
little choice or alternatives. The country, however, should not ignore
its legal duty to protect the life and safety of the workers as well as
other citizens.
The third chapter clarifies the role of international legal and
institutional arrangements in dealing with the operation of
shipbreaking. These legal instruments were not initially designed with
the issue of shipbreaking in mind, so they are of limiteduse in the sus-
tainable regulation of this industry. This chapter indicates that the
uncontrolled movementof hazardous wastes to developing countries is
a manifest violation of principles of international environmental law,
giving rise to gross injustice. In this situation, the relevant international
legal instruments neither directly address the environmental justice
aspects nor help in implementingexisting environmental principlessuch
as prevention and thepolluter pays. Moreover, due to a lack of prevail-
ing technical capacity,these provisions often cannot be used effectively
in developing countrieslike Bangladesh. In short, the international legal
system has failed to provide sufficient remedies for marginalizedStates
and their workers in bearing the disproportionate burden of environ-
mental risks and the violation of their basic human rights. The author
finds the system fundamentally flawed in managing the shipbreaking
and other hazardous industries in developing countries. He concludes
that developed nations treat the Global South as a repository for haz-
ardous wastes to internalize their environmental costs and have
designed the relevantinternational instruments accordingly.
The fourth chapter analyses the development of an international
legal order for ship recycling. It points out different arguments on
International Maritime Organization (IMO) jurisdiction related to
adopting a new agenda item for the safe and sustainable dismantling
of ships. It also provides a historical account of the adoption of the
2003 IMO Guidelines on Ship Recycling that according to Karim
are inconsistent with the principles of environmental justice and the
Basel Convention and, accordingly, hardly play a meaningful role in
ensuring a safe and sound shipbreaking industry.This situation has led
to the introduction of the Hong Kong Convention, which, however, is
not a comprehensive regime for the effective management of ship-
breaking functions. Theauthor reveals that the Hong Kong Convention
does not put in place hard requirements for the maintenance of stan-
dard shipbreaking facilities, precleaningof obsolete ships, downstream
management of their wastes, safe for hot work and safe for entry cer-
tificatesand, above all, the observance of principles of sustainability,
justice and human rights. The convention supports the shift in burden
to the developing countries for ensuring the environmentally sound
recycling of obsolete ships. Though it incorporates the provisions of
technical assistance and cooperation for expediting this task, in prac-
tice, this has had little impact, as hasalso been the case for other IMO
conventions. European shipbreakingregulations similarly have failed to
address the environmental injustices suffered by the developing
nations and their workers.
A Sen, The Idea of Justice (Allen Lane 2009) vii.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT