Suez Canal development in Egypt - reports of worker injuries and deaths

In August 2015 Madr Masr quoted an Egyptian health ministry official as saying that 10 workers had died on the construction phase for the new Suez Canal development (5 from natural causes such as pre-existing medical conditions and heart attacks, and 5 in industrial accidents).  Reportedly 145 others were were injured and required medical attention.

An Egyptian Streets article, drawing on the Madr Masr one, named the private contractors that had been involved in aspects of the project. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited those companies to respond to the concerns regarding working conditions on the project. 

The consortium of DEME Group and Great Lakes Dredge and Dock responded, as did the Challenge Consortium on behalf of its member companies (National Marine Dredging Company, Boskalis, Van Oord and Jan de Nul).   The responses are available below.

 

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Company response
13 September 2015

DEME Group and Great Lakes

Author: Dredging International (DEME Group) and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited DEME Group and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock to respond to this article.  They responded as follows:

"The consortium Dredging International (DEME Group) and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company are committed to maintaining the highest level of health and safety wherever they do business. The implementation of our commitments are regularly monitored through internal and external audits. Therefore, the consortium is convinced that the insinuations and allegations the article refers to, are in no way related to our recent activities in Egypt or anywhere else in the world.

DEME Group and Great Lakes strongly reject any insinuation or allegation that the company would not respect the human rights of their local staff and vessel crew.

The working conditions, the accommodation, the quality of food, the transport and the safety measures were constantly of high quality and equal for both the expats as the locals. All our people were provided with personal protective equipment and received daily trainings by means of toolbox meetings allowing them to execute their tasks in safe conditions. As a result, no major incidents took place.

The consortium was awarded lot 6 of the new Suez Canal and realized an additional 250-metre-wide, 24-metre-deep, and 29.5-kilometre-long fairway through the Great Bitter Lake. The access channels to the lake have been widened to 140 meters."

Company response
10 September 2015

Challenge Consortium response to reports of worker injuries, deaths in Suez canal construction

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited companies in the Challenge Consortium to respond to this article.  The consortium members are National Marine Dredging Company, Boskalis, Van Oord, and Jan de Nul.  The consortium sent the following response:

"You have requested each of the four members of the Challenge Consortium to respond to a recent publication in the Egyptian Streets ("Worker Deaths Reveal Ugly Side of Suez Canal Expansion", 10 August 2015). The dredging activities of lot 2 through 5, the dredging of a new 35 km parallel canal, was executed by the Challenge Consortium. It is therefore appropriate that the consortium provides a response, instead of the individual companies.

The consortium does not recognize itself in the allegations and insinuations made. We strongly dismiss any implication that we did not respect the human rights of the workers employed by the challenge consortium. The working and housing conditions on the project were consistent with international standards and each of the consortium members has stringent safety programs that meet the high standards of their international client base. The construction of the parallel canal was completed ahead of the opening on 6 August and the consortium is therefore not involved in any further construction or development activities of the Suez canal."

Company response
10 September 2015

Challenge Consortium response to reports of worker injuries, deaths in Suez canal construction

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited companies in the Challenge Consortium to respond to this article.  The consortium members are National Marine Dredging Company, Boskalis, Van Oord, and Jan de Nul.  The consortium sent the following response:

"You have requested each of the four members of the Challenge Consortium to respond to a recent publication in the Egyptian Streets ("Worker Deaths Reveal Ugly Side of Suez Canal Expansion", 10 August 2015). The dredging activities of lot 2 through 5, the dredging of a new 35 km parallel canal, was executed by the Challenge Consortium. It is therefore appropriate that the consortium provides a response, instead of the individual companies.

The consortium does not recognize itself in the allegations and insinuations made. We strongly dismiss any implication that we did not respect the human rights of the workers employed by the challenge consortium. The working and housing conditions on the project were consistent with international standards and each of the consortium members has stringent safety programs that meet the high standards of their international client base. The construction of the parallel canal was completed ahead of the opening on 6 August and the consortium is therefore not involved in any further construction or development activities of the Suez canal."

Company response
10 September 2015

Challenge Consortium response to reports of worker injuries, deaths in Suez canal construction

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited companies in the Challenge Consortium to respond to this article.  The consortium members are National Marine Dredging Company, Boskalis, Van Oord, and Jan de Nul.  The consortium sent the following response:

"You have requested each of the four members of the Challenge Consortium to respond to a recent publication in the Egyptian Streets ("Worker Deaths Reveal Ugly Side of Suez Canal Expansion", 10 August 2015). The dredging activities of lot 2 through 5, the dredging of a new 35 km parallel canal, was executed by the Challenge Consortium. It is therefore appropriate that the consortium provides a response, instead of the individual companies.

The consortium does not recognize itself in the allegations and insinuations made. We strongly dismiss any implication that we did not respect the human rights of the workers employed by the challenge consortium. The working and housing conditions on the project were consistent with international standards and each of the consortium members has stringent safety programs that meet the high standards of their international client base. The construction of the parallel canal was completed ahead of the opening on 6 August and the consortium is therefore not involved in any further construction or development activities of the Suez canal."

Company response
10 September 2015

Challenge Consortium response to reports of worker injuries, deaths in Suez canal construction

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited companies in the Challenge Consortium to respond to this article.  The consortium members are National Marine Dredging Company, Boskalis, Van Oord, and Jan de Nul.  The consortium sent the following response:

"You have requested each of the four members of the Challenge Consortium to respond to a recent publication in the Egyptian Streets ("Worker Deaths Reveal Ugly Side of Suez Canal Expansion", 10 August 2015). The dredging activities of lot 2 through 5, the dredging of a new 35 km parallel canal, was executed by the Challenge Consortium. It is therefore appropriate that the consortium provides a response, instead of the individual companies.

The consortium does not recognize itself in the allegations and insinuations made. We strongly dismiss any implication that we did not respect the human rights of the workers employed by the challenge consortium. The working and housing conditions on the project were consistent with international standards and each of the consortium members has stringent safety programs that meet the high standards of their international client base. The construction of the parallel canal was completed ahead of the opening on 6 August and the consortium is therefore not involved in any further construction or development activities of the Suez canal."

Article
10 August 2015

What Sisi didn't say about labour conditions in constructing the New Suez Canal

Author: Jano Charbel, Mada Masr (Egypt)

"What Sisi didn't say about labor conditions in constructing the New Suez Canal", 07 August 2015

...During the canal's inauguration speech on Thursday, Sisi and the Chief of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), Mohab Mamish, paid tribute to those who died as “Egypt’s martyrs” in terrorist acts, including members of the police and Armed Forces, but didn't mention those who died during construction of the new passageway.

They glossed over the hazardous and precarious working conditions under which thousands labored for a year in order to build a 72 kilometer-long expansion of the existing Suez Canal. Using patriotic rhetoric, Sisi and Mamish praised the timely efforts of all those who were involved in the mega project, including around 44,000 workers, military engineers, machinists, technicians, and Suez Canal employees.

Spokesperson for the Health Ministry Hossam Abdel Ghaffar, told Mada Masr that of the 10 workers, including one medical doctor, who died while working on the new project, five are reported to have died of natural causes, such as pre-existing medical conditions and heart attacks, while the five others are reported to have died in industrial accidents on site.145 others were injured and required medical attention. The Health Ministry’s crews reported treating 103 workers who collapsed due to sunstroke. Another 41 were treated for venomous scorpion stings and one worker received medical attention after being bitten by a wild dog...

...However, [Seoud Omar, an independent union organizer and SCA employee in Suez City] commented that several private contractors, who recruited the workers, in coordination with SCA, imposed harsh working and living conditions on the workers.

Read the full post here

Article
10 August 2015

Worker Deaths Reveal Ugly Side of Suez Canal Expansion

Author: Egyptian Streets

Despite Egypt’s round the clock coverage of the New Suez Canal’s lavish opening ceremony, a few key facts regarding the labour conditions of the workers that made it happen were notably missing...

Read the full post here