Under business-as-usual conditions, it takes much less than a year to recycle a vessel in Alang, but implementing new standards, infrastructure as well as a safety mindset at the shipyard saw the recycling of the first vessels exceed a full year.
“We were paid less than the actual value of the two vessels. In return, Shree Ram invested in upgrading its health, safety and environmental performance,” explains John Kornerup Bang.
One indication of a more cautious approach to dismantling the vessels in a safe and environmentally sounds manner as well as an improved safety culture is the increase of reported near-misses. These rose to 120 in 2017 against a target of 40. Also, unsafe acts led to 72 stop-work instructions issued by Maersk’s onsite team, and the number of training sessions and drills conducted increased by 30%.
“These numbers point to an important cultural change at the shipyard: workers proactively report safety hazards and near misses. This enabled us to insert risk mitigation measures in a timely manner before things went wrong. It takes time to stop work, explain what, why and how certain procedures must be changed and ensure that everybody understands our standard,” says Capt. Prashant Widge, Head of Responsible Ship Recycling at Maersk.
Nevertheless, the recycling of the two vessels did reveal two shortcomings on the 22 health, safety and environmental KPIs that were monitored: one lost-time injury as a safety officer fell from a one-meter ladder twisting his ankle, and one minor gas leakage in the intertidal zone.
“Two incidences are two too many and they only go to show the importance of having an onsite supervision team that can take action and continuously promote the safety culture. All past experience of changing any industry points to the fact that real engagement on the ground leads to effective change,” says John Kornerup Bang.
Working with yards in Alang
The shipyard underwent a massive change while recycling the two vessels, not just culturally and in terms of working conditions but also as far as infrastructure goes. Dormitories for workers were built, heavy-duty cranes brought in to make sure that steel blocks can be removed from the vessels without touching the ground, the impermeable floor was extended to reduce the intertidal zone and much more.