Breaking the shadows: Roberto Schmidt charts the daily lives of Geddani ship-breakers

  • Hard at work: fumes come off a separating wall as a shipyard worker cuts through the inside of the hull of a ship with his blow torch.
  • Break time: after clearing out the inside of a boat's hull, a worker takes a well-earned break.
  • Back to work: a blow torch is used to cut through metal inside the hull of a vessel beached at one of Geddani's 127 ship-breaking plots.
  • Roll out the barrel: workers remove oil barrels from inside the hull of a vessel being dismantled in Geddani.
  • Lighting up: it's a busy life for shipyard workers in Geddani.
  • End of another hard day: workers walk away from the shipyard and make their way back to the shacks they call home.
  • Wash time: A shipyard worker pulls water from a well to clean himself after another long and hard shift.
  • Family time: Abdul Raziq takes a walk with his baby brother Abdul Qadeer in his arms outside the cluster of wooden shacks that he calls home.
  • Cleaning up: a worker makes himself clean before the dinner which follows his long shift.
  • Who will buy: two shipyard workers buy fruit from a street salesman near the Geddani shipyard.
  • Lunch time: this food kiosk is in big demand as workers grab a bite to eat before starting their afternoon shift.
  • After lunch: workers begin to return to work after eating at a modest food kiosk.
  • A woman's work: Pakistani women empty sacks with small scrap metal pieces they picked up on the shore near where boats have been beached and dismantled.
  • Social club: workers come together at the end of the day near rooms they rent for a fee and which they call home.
  • Man on a wire: a worker pulls a wire to help peel away part of the outer structure of a beached vessel.
  • Start from the beginning: the front end of a cargo vessel is torn apart by workers.
  • Coming to rest: A ship sits on the beach partially dismantled.

Geddani's ship-breaking yards employ some 10,000 workers including welders, cleaners, crane operators and worker supervisors. The yards are one of the largest ship-breaking operations in the world rivaling in size those located in India and Bangladesh. It takes 50 workers about three months to break down a midsize average transport sea vessel of about 40,000 tonnes. The multimillion-dollar ship-breaking industry contributes significantly to the national supply of steel to Pakistani industries. For a six-day working week of hard and often dangerous work handling asbestos, heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), employees get paid about 300 USD a month of which half is spent on food and rent for run-down rickety shacks near the yards.

This beautiful set of images by Agence France Press photographer Roberto Schmidt illustrate the daily life of the Geddani ship-breakers.

Edited and sequenced by photo editor James O'Hara

     
       
         
           
             
               
                 
                   
                     
                       
                         
                           
                             
                               
                                 
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