The shipbreaking yards of Chittagong really made the media a few years back – videos and pictures of giant container ships being manually taken apart by workers with no protection at all were everywhere. There’s a lot of news reporting from that time, like this good Vice short from 2013:
I’d also recommend this Dhaka Tribune article “Planning ahead: The ship recycling industry must transition to a more sustainable future” by Afsana Rubaiyat for a good recent overview of the issue from a Bangladeshi perspective.
The industry is still going strong – you can even see the ships individually on Google Maps. While the Bangladesh government has attempted to regulate this industry – banning child labour, stopping ships carrying toxic material, setting safety and work conditions – the informal nature of the industry and high corruption makes these rules extremely difficult to enforce.
It’s also not an industry Bangladesh wants to ban completely, since it desperately needs the metals from the scrap to fuel its massive urban growth, and the industry employs thousands of workers. However, deaths and accidents still happen – the NGO Shipbreaking Platform reports at least 18 serious accidents in the first half of 2022 alone – and these are documented, reported ones.
Interestingly, the Bangladeshi NGOs also recognize the economic importance of shipbreaking to the country – Shipbreaking Platform works for better environmental protection and worker safety, including COVID protection and stopping child labour.