All Hands Abandon Ship –
Where the Big Ships Die

Length: 30 minutes (ARTE, 24 May 2000)
They cruise the Seven Seas for German shipowners, but their lives end in southern Asia. Worldwide, three quarters of all oceangoing ships are scrapped on the beaches of India. Hundreds of labourers take these oceanic giants apart by hand without the slightest protection against hazardous substances on board.
They pack asbestos into sacks by hand and inhale poisonous lead fumes while welding. Accidents are a daily occurrence: Sparks from welding trigger gas explosions, steel parts fall on the labourers’ heads. The Indian labourers say: “One day - one ship - one dead body.”
Even the German navy disposes of ships in India, vessels particularly polluted with asbestos. That could change. In the aftermath of public protests, a ship is now being scrapped again for the first time in its own country in Europe, in this case Denmark. Yet it’s no surprise that strict European environmental standards make this considerably more expensive than in India.
20 years ago there were still scrapping shipyards in Germany. A dirty business: Decades later, former shipyard workers are still becoming ill with asbestosis or lung cancer because back then they handled asbestos and lead paints with just as little protection as the Indians do today.

Screenplay: Valentin Thurn
Camera: Hans Hausmann
Assistant: Till Butenschön
Editor: Inge Kamps
Narrator: Josef Tratnik
Executive Producer: Bruno Funk
We thank: RSN Asbestentsorgung, Carsten Gutland / Greenpeace, SWR / Report Mainz

Video (approx. 5 min.(German))