02/27/2018

The Shipyard in Old Dhaka, Bangladesh

Shipbuilding in Bangladesh has become a major industry in recent years. Bangladesh has over 200 shipbuilding companies, mostly concentrated in Dhaka, Chittagong, Barisal and Khulna. The largest and most famous shipyard in Bangladesh is the Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard.

Shipyard in Dhaka, Bangladesh

One big shipyard in Dhaka is located on the riverbank of the Buriganga River just opposite of the Sadarghat in Old Dhaka. The best way to reach the dockyard is to cross the Buriganga River at Sadarghat by using one of the numerous small wooden boats for just 5 Taka. The dockyard is open for everyone and it is very easy to roam around. The shipyard provides docks and equipment mostly for repairing and maintaining big vessels. But the workers in the yard also break down old ships as well as build new ships from scratch.

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The first thing to notice when entering the yard is that the workers are extremely kind and welcoming. They always have a friendly smile for the visitors, and sometimes the ship-owners or dockyard managers greet the visitors with a handshake. A stroll in the shipyard is always accompanied by the rhythmic and incessant sound of hammering. Countless workers equipped with a hammer get rid of the rust and old paint of the boat hulls. The constant buzz of activity on the yard includes metal cutting, welding and painting. But there are also other facilities like foundries for ship propellers and workplaces to maintain the ship engines. And there are of course the huge cable winches to drag the big vessels out of the Buringanga River on the docks.

To see all pictures take a look at the complete foto gallery "Dockyard Dhaka" in the gallery section. 

All in all it is a pleasant adventure to stroll around and watch the hard-working people in the ship yard and there is always something interesting to discover. The workers often ask for a picture and they happily pose with their tools for a photo. The lack of high-technology like cranes, auto welding machines or even simple forklifts which are common in dockyards in industrial countries strongly supports the impression of somehow time travelled to the charming 19th century.

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However, after a while the romantic view slowly fades away. Often there is a lack of protective gear such as helmets, gloves or welding glasses. Maybe the law regulates the use of protective wear, but there is obviously no control. Many workers hammer without safety glasses and virtually nobody is wearing a helmet. Workers often paint the ship hull by using their hands and a rag instead of a proper brush. Most of the workers don't wear earplugs, although the hammering is deafening when you stand nearby. On top of that there are also many child workers, especially in the foundries and workplaces, boys between 12 and 14, who skipped school to earn some money.

The officials or dockyard owners know all these issues, and they react, at least they did in the Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard. They closed the shipyards for visitors and foreigners. That way nobody can document the security violations anymore - problem solved. It is only a matter of time that the same will happen in the shipyard in Dhaka. Of course it doesn't help the workers but it helps to avoid a bad reputation in the public opinion of the people.

Shipyard in Dhaka, Bangladesh

However, at the end of the day it still is a great adventure to visit the dockyards. The hard-working people are always smiling, they are happy and they never complain. After all, the shipbuilding industry grows in Bangladesh and helps to secure industrial jobs. We can only hope that slowly but steadily the working conditions will improve in the future.

To see all pictures take a look at the complete foto gallery "Dockyard Dhaka" in the gallery section.