The ongoing issue of asbestos on ships
Asbestos has been banned in ships since 2002, although through our Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) inspections, it is still found in most ships today. In this article we explain the steps that ship owners should take to solve the problems that asbestos is causing the maritime sector.
Ship builders claim that asbestos containing materials have not been used in the production of their ships. Unfortunately fibers are still often found due to long global supply chains as “asbestos free” in one country does not necessarily mean the same in another.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) updated the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), specifically to confront the asbestos problem. For ships built between July 2002 and January 2011, it was prohibited for new installations to use materials containing asbestos and if any was found, a three-year period was given for its safe removal. For ships built after 2011, the regulation banned the use of asbestos on ships completely.
These regulations not only set out to minimize the health and safety risks to crew members on board but also seek to safeguard the environment for when ships are dismantled and recycled accompanied by the Hong Kong Convention and the European Union Ship Recycling Regulation.
Depending on where a ship is registered it also needs to abide by that country’s standards. For example, in the Netherlands and Australia, ships must undergo a verification asbestos survey performed by a marine specialist ISO 17020 accredited company before being registered. This poses extra burdens on international ship owners.
Advantages of asbestos free ships
There are many advantages for those who want to ensure that their vessels are truly "asbestos free":
- Protecting the health and safety of the crew;
- Reducing the risk of litigation claims from crew members;
- Increasing confidence in global expeditions without fear of an asbestos discovery on inspection;
- Saving time by knowing and/or having all asbestos issues in order ;
- Maximizing the ‘true’ value of the ship;
- Minimizing the risk of contaminating water, air and soil;
- Protecting those involved in the dismantling and recycling of the ship.
How to Manage asbestos
Dr. Hans de Jong, our SGS expert, has years of international experience in the field of asbestos and hazardous materials. Hans has been actively working within the maritime sector in recent years to help ship owners in the field of Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM). “What is described above is the ultimate goal for every ship owner. We have carried out many IHM surveys and done maintenance to comply with the IMO regulations. Unfortunately, our surveys have shown that there is still a lot of asbestos present on ships.”
To comply with legislation, SGS can help owners to avoid the risk of ships not sailing by writing:
- An asbestos removal plan;
- An asbestos management plan;
- Or a monitoring plan if removal is not possible in the short term.