By Shams Qari @shamsqari
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Considered a lifeline for Old Dhaka, more than 35 shipyards on the banks of the Buriganga are run where small ships, launches and steamers are built and repaired round the clock.
These shipyards employ around 15,000 workers who work without any safety equipment or heavy machinery.
Earning as little as £3 to £4 a day, the workers make new ships from the discarded ones.
Mohammad Mamun, a 21-year-old worker at the Buriganga dockyard said: “It is hard to work here without any big machines. We don’t have sophisticated machinery here. We make a group of 6-7 people to carry heavy iron sheets and other parts.
“We have scratches all over the body. It's a routine for us. Not getting seriously injured is what we look after.”
Risking their lives, the workers have to climb on top of the ships using makeshift ladders.
Kamrul Islam, an employee at Buriganga ship dockyard said: “I am not aware of the big machines that are used to make ships around the world but working without any safety gear is dangerous here. We risk our lives here everyday.
“I hurt my foot when I was standing on a plank hanging from the ship. I slipped and fell from about 15ft high.”
Braving the injuries, the workers don’t stop the construction of the ships. The workers are worried about their health and some of them question the quality of the material used to make ships.
A worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “They don’t look after our health. They don’t care if we die. All they want is work.
“There is no good machinery here. Also the quality of material we use is not that good. It's like we are risking everyone’s life, especially ours.”
Most of these shipyards use plates, engines and machinery of old merchant ships, which were built for countries like Denmark, Germany and Finland. These small and medium-sized ships are then exported for the highly competitive European market.
Bangladesh shipbuilding is now comparable to the bigger shipbuilding industries around the world such as China, Japan and South Korea.