Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard
Near the port city of Chittagong in Bangladesh lies one of the largest ship breaking yards in the world. The Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard stretches for 20 km along the coast on the Bay of Bengal with 100 different wreck yards lined up one after another. Over 200,000 Bangladeshis are employed to break down up to 120 ships a year. Each vessel takes about 2 months to dismantle.
The first step involves a dramatic beaching of the vessel on the flat beach sands. Once the ship is mired, its liquids are siphoned out, including any remaining diesel fuel, engine oil, and firefighting chemicals, which are resold. Despite the efforts some toxic materials such as oil, asbestos and lead still spill into the water. The machinery and fittings are then stripped by hand, often at great risk to worker’s health and safety. Welders can be seen cutting apart the hull with handheld torches. Shipbreakers use a metal rope to drag large sections cut from the hull closer to shore. Everything is removed and sold to salvage dealers. All efforts are made to ensure nothing goes to waste. On average 90 percent of each ship is recycled.
The industry began with a cyclone in 1960 which left a Greek cargo ship stranded on the shores of Chittagong. Unable to be refloated, Chittagong Steel House bought the ship and with the help of locals had it dismantled and scrapped.
Demand has since boomed. The rising cost to insure and maintain aging oil tankers and containerships makes them unprofitable to operate. At the same time the need for new and larger vessels designed to meet global shipping trade demands has increased. Bangladesh’s large, cheap and hard working labour force, coupled with lax environment and safety standards makes the Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard a cost efficient solution.
Bangladesh’s steel supply comes almost entirely from the shipbreaking industry.
The Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard has over the years been a popular destination for documentary and stills shoots. In terms of Hollywood films, a scene from Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) was filmed there.
Once open to all visitors, the Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard has since become more difficult to access for film and photography projects. These days, permission to film is negotiated on a case by case basis. As such, permit costs and timing vary greatly depending on the specifics of the shoot. Projects requiring exclusive use of the space can be very expensive, whereas small projects, particularly those filming at a distance from the water, are easier and less expensive to achieve.
Crew & Equipment
Dhaka, a 30 minute flight away, is the closest major production centre where crew and equipment would need to come from. Otherwise, you need to bring in your key crew from abroad. Base camp would be in Chittagong City, 25km drive from the Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard.
If you are looking for a Bangladesh based fixer, producer, or shooting crew including DoP’s, videographers, or photographers, contact us for referrals.
Images courtesy of Roni Law.