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Exhibition: Steel Bch - Shipbreaking In Bangladesh

Australian National Maritime Museum
Darling Harbour
Sydney, Australia

Exhibition: Steel Beach - Shipbreaking in Bangladesh

Skeletons of half-scrapped ships and workers tearing them apart on the mud-flats of Bangladesh are vividly captured in a new photographic exhibition coming to the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Steel Beach - Shipbreaking in Bangladesh draws together more than 40 images by Sydney photographer Andrew Bell to show the tough reality and dangers of the unregulated shipbreaking industry.

Near the town of Sitakunda, on the mud flats of the Bay of Bengal, the beach graveyard for old ships stretches more than 25 kilometres. It is home to approximately 65 separately owned ship scrap-yards and more than 40,000 workers.

Andrew Bell's photographs capture the unwanted oil tankers, passenger liners and fishing boats beached on these mud-flats where thousands of labourers work with blowtorches, hammers and brute strength to dismantle and recycle every inch of the giant steel structures.

He portays the dangerous conditions the labourers work under without basic safety equipment.

His photographs also show the immense task of recycling these ships, from the removal of all electronics, fittings, furniture, pipes, wiring, bolts and heavy mechanical equipment to the oil from the ship's bottom and the steel structure itself. Breaking a sizable ship takes about six months.

Bell trained in London and has been a photographer for more than 30 years. He has travelled extensively with his camera including documenting the tribes of Kenya, Chernobyl, and the Swenkas of Soweto (South Africa).

He first became fascinated by the shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh when coming upon an article on the Greenpeace website. Astounded at the working conditions and the "industrial wasteland" of the beach, Bell has been to Bangladesh three times in an ongoing project to to document this dangerous industry and its workers.

Steel Beach - Shipbreaking in Bangladesh opens to the public on 8 February 2008, admission free. It will remain on view until 30 March.

The Australian National Maritime Museum, in Darling Harbour, is open daily from 9.30 am to 5 pm. .


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