A delegation of Indian trade union officials will be arriving in Tyneside on Thursday, October 11 to meet with North East union leaders and visit a local shipyard.

The fact finding visit, organised by the GMB Northern union, will welcome high profile trade union representatives from India.

The delegation want to improve ship breaking standards in India where it is common practice for men, women and children to dismantle equipment by hand while the ships are moored on the beach.

Health and Safety Procedures

The delegation will visit the A&P Tyne yard in Hebburn where they will hear about the strict health and safety procedures the company follows when repairing and refitting ships on the Tyne.

A&P Tyne has applied to the Department for Environment for a licence to decommission ships but is not actively pursuing any ship recycling contracts at the moment.

Yards in the UK must follow strict regulations to protect workers, the environment and surrounding community. A&P Tyne will share their expertise with the delegation.

The visitors include Rane Vidyadhar Vasudeo, President of the Steel, Metal and Engineering Workers Federation; Apraj Sudhakar Ramchandra, Secretary of the All India Port and Dock Workers’ Federation and Ram Murat Ram, Vice President of the Alang Sosiya Ship Recycling & General Workers’ Association.

They hope to take the knowledge they gain back to India to encourage safer practices for ship breaking to protect workers and the environment.

Exposure to Lead, Mercury and Asbestos

The beaches of Alang Bay in India are one of the world’s biggest sites for scrapping old ships. Samples taken by Greenpeace found workers there were exposed to dangerous levels of dust and toxic substances, including lead, mercury and asbestos.

The workers are given no protection and many work in bare feet earning only £1 a day.

Following a campaign by GMB Northern, Greenpeace and Peter Mandleson the UK government has pledged to scrap all its naval war ships in the UK. There is currently a queue of decommissioned war ships waiting to be recycled but only a small number of facilities to do the work safely.

Tom Brennan, Regional secretary for the GMB said: “A&P Tyne has decades of experience working in the shipbuilding industry and with input from GMB safety representatives its health and safety record is outstanding.

“The yard provides the perfect showcase for our Indian colleagues to see best practice.

“We hope this visit will help improve health and safety standards and working conditions in India where some ships are broken up on beaches and workers are not given any protection from exposure to dangerous substances.

“This visit will equip our Indian colleagues with useful knowledge to go back to the Indian Government and employers to fight for better working conditions.”

David Skentelbury, Managing Director of A&P Tyne, added: “At A&P Tyne we work hard to ensure health and safety is a top priority. The rules we follow for ship maintenance and repair are the same as those which should be followed when recycling a ship.

“We are happy to assist the delegation to gain a better understanding of the procedures we follow on Tyneside and hope that they will be able to use this knowledge to improve working conditions in India.”