Tradewinds have recently reported that scores of ships built in the last 10 years containing substantial amounts of banned asbestos have triggered claims that classification societies have failed to police the industry.
The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) has submitted a paper to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to clarify exactly where responsibility lies in the regulations on asbestos. In July 2002 the IMO banned under Solas the installation of asbestos on new buildings and existing ships. A total ban was then brought in on 1st January 2011.
However, this has been criticised. Henning Gramann, former ship recycling boss at Germanischer Lloyd argues that class societies have for many years wrongly issued Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) certificates for ships containing asbestos. He further states that classification societies have been laz in accepting asbestos-free certificates or statements from shipyards for equipment installations without checking their accuracy. The IACS paper is to go before the IMO this week during a meeting of the sub-committee on ship design and equipment.
It is clear that regulation on asbestos in maritime vessels needs to be ratified in order to highlight the duty holder. The impending Hong Kong Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships 2009 would go a long way to clarifying this, as it would require all vessels above 500 GT to hold an Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM). The hazardous materials listed in this inventory have been compiled by the IMO and include asbestos. Many ship owners are already issuing IHMs to ensure entry to ports and yards and successful safety inspection checks.
More ship owners need to consider possession of IHMs to ensure their vessels are truly free of asbestos and other hazardous materials. Until clarification on regulation and guidance is agreed upon, ship owners should rely only on hazardous material experts such as Lucion Marine to provide accredited, experienced and expert advice on asbestos and hazard management.