Chittagong is a small port city of southern Bangladesh. Everyday some 20,000 people there risk their lives for an average wage of $2 a day. They dismantle old ships from all over the world. On average, 20 workers die each year. Despite the harsh working environment full of contaminants and toxic gases, these ships are considered as gifts from God.
A 21 year old Belal who left home 10 years ago, a master gascutter Rufik who worked in Chittagong for 32 years and a 12 year young child laborer Ekramul tell the heart-breaking story of their lives, accompanied by breathtaking views of the ship yards.
PHP is the best conditioned ship breaking site in Chittagong, a home to the world renowned ship breaking industry. However, the workers risk their lives while wrestling with thousands tons of iron pieces at the yards full of asbestos and toxic gases. There is always a chance for explosion while burning the waste oils trapped in stacks of iron. The workers could easily get crushed and killed while cutting or moving iron plates.
A forty nine year old Rufik is the head of a six member family. His income as a skilled gas cutter is 50 dollars a month. Although he spends his off days in woods 1.5 hours walk away gathering firewood, his income is never enough to pay for his daughter’s wedding. A baby daughter is born blind from a twenty one year old Belal while working with his younger brother in Chittagong. Belal almost lost his life by a heavy iron piece falling toward him. However, he can’t afford to go home to see his new born baby.
Most workers are from the north, the poorest part of Bangladesh that suffers from the chronic floods and cyclones. Those who collect waste oils and toxic asbestos are twelve year young laborers. The young boys also pull heavy metal wires. Despite the poor meals without much nutrition they eat at the dirty dormitory, the boys are happy for feeding their hungry stomachs. Nothing from a dismantled old ship is a waste. A rusty piece of iron and even waste oils mixed with mud are all recycled and sold through auctions. A half of the world retired ships are dismantled in Chittagong. Chittagong’s ship breaking industry provides 85% of the domestic needs of iron in Bangladesh where no iron is produced in.
One day a new retired ship comes to PHP. This life risking ship breaking job is a hope for the workers and their families.