SAFETY | Netherlands raises asbestos ship case at IMO

David Osler | LLOYD’S LIST

THE Netherlands has raised the issue of asbestos on newbuildings at the International Maritime Organization, after Lloyd’s List revealed that a chemtanker delivered by a Turkish yard to a Dutch owner contained substantial quantities of the material.

Impending regulatory changes may mean that asbestos would have to be removed from ships prior to scrapping, which would represent a “real challenge”, the delegation warned.

While the draft report of a meeting of the IMO’s flag state implementation subcommittee earlier this month does not name the ship involved, the context makes it clear that it is referring to Caroline Essberger, the 2009-built, 8,400 dwt vessel operated by John T Essberger of Dordrecht.

The material has been banned on ships constructed since 2002, under the terms of the Safety of Life at Sea convention. But classification societies and specialist asbestos removal concerns have testified that it is still being employed by many shipyards, particularly in China.

The report makes clear for the first time the full extent of the problems with Caroline Essberger, revealing that it took as long as six months to remove the huge quantity of asbestos on board the vessel, built by Eregli shipyard in Turkey. It also confirms that the ship was misleadingly declared asbestos free.

According to the IMO draft report: “The [Dutch] delegation reported that they were, recently, confronted with a newbuilding ship, provided with statutory certificates, and with an asbestos free declaration, that appeared to have more than 5,000 gaskets containing asbestos in the piping systems on board.

“They were found all over the ship and it took almost half a year to remove all these gaskets and to replace them with asbestos-free gaskets. From this case, the Netherlands learned that asbestos is still available and used for ships’ purposes and that only a few people are aware that asbestos is still applied on ships worldwide, notwithstanding the ban on the use of it.”

The Netherlands further indicated that once the Ship Recycling Conventioncomes into force, there will be an obligation for ships to undertake an ‘investigation of hazardous materials’, known by the acronym IHM.

“Within the scope of this IHM, special attention should, then, be given to asbestos-containing materials and there may be a real challenge when and if, on ships delivered after July 2002, asbestos is found on board, as these ships will not comply with Solas requirements, and, therefore, all asbestos will have to be removed from the ship, which will be an enormous job as already mentioned before.”

Meanwhile, Anglo-Dutch seafarer union Nautilus International is to draw the issue to the attention of the UK labour movement, and will table a resolution on the use of asbestos on ships at the annual conference of the Trades Union Congress in Manchester in September.

“We are outraged that the substance is still being found in extensive use, so long after Solas rules were supposed to have curtailed its use,” a Nautilus spokesman said.

“We are looking for a new wave of concerted international action to stamp out its use and to target some of the countries that seem to think they are exempt from these regulations.”

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “SAFETY | Netherlands raises asbestos ship case at IMO

  1. Nick Bennett

    Thanks David for your article on asbestos discovery at IMO. I do find it somewhat bemusing that the discovery of ACM on a new build appears to come as a surprise to IMO. Having spent the last 8 years undertaking hazardous materials assessments and managing asbestos remediation projects on a range of vessels through Australasia, I can attest that I don’t believe I have ever seen a vessel of any type or age, including new builds, which does not contain some amount of ACM in its plant or structure. Moreover, I have seen a number of instances where vessels returning from dry docking (read Singapore, China, Malaysia and Korea) have received new installations of ACM as part of planned equipment repairs or maintenance.
    The underlying reason that ACM persistently finds its way onto vessels, including newbuilds, is the maritime industry’s reliance on the relatively cheap labour markets of Asian countries such as Singapore, China Malaysia and Korea. Unfortunately, it so happens that ACM is still legally manufactured in some of these very countries, and are often supplied directly to shipyards or exported to other countries.
    I find it also alarming that the maritime industry relies entirely on documentation provided by shipyards and suppliers (ie asbestos free certificates) where the validity of the certificate clearly conflicts with the shipyard/supplier’s supply and contrcatual obligations with the vessel owner.
    While the IMO engages one of the most regulated external certification systems of any industry outside the aeronautical (ie Class Societies), it relies heavily on the potentially, and in some cases likely, inaccuracies of certification documents provided by third party suppliers and shipyards who may have demonstrable conflicts of interest.
    As the IMO, ILO, UN or any global organization will have difficulty in actually mandating change in any nation, little reliance should placed on documentation which are supplied from shipyards and suppliers until a valid process of vetting and verification is implemented. For this, the engagement of independent surveyors with the demonstrated experience, specifically regarding asbestos, would be needed.
    Under IMO convention and the regulations of most industrialized nations, it is a requirement that no installation of ACM occur in any shipyard or port. The risk to ship owners is that a vessel will be laid up, as was the case with Caroline Essberger while the conditions of the build contract are remedied. Apart from the dollar costs to the shipyard, there is also significant time delay to the ship owner, without consideration to the downstream impacts to the charterers, managers, agents and end users.
    I suggest that it would be prudent for IMO, Class Societies and shipowners to consider implementing a more rigorous approach to engaging independent organisations to inspect and validate any asbestos free claims and certificates prior to accepting delivery or completion of works. The key to vigilance would be to deploy suitable qualified and experienced surveyors with the demonstrated asbestos experience to oversee the actions undertaken in shipyards, as well as to inspect the materials as supplied to and by the shipyards.
    As an extension to this concern, I note also from experience that there is a similar reliance of shipyard documentation regarding the preparation of Green Passport/IHM documents. It would be remiss, given the known inaccuracies of asbestos certification, to assume that serious misrepresentations have not by now also been incorporated into Green Passport/IHM reports.
    I would welcome the opportunity to provide more input or thoughts regarding these matters should your organization be interested. A presentation of the discussed issues to interested parties and stakeholders could be benefitial to the maritime industry finally putting the issues of asbestos (and other environmental issues) behind it.

    Best regards
    Nick Bennett.

  2. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all of us you actually understand what you are speaking about! Bookmarked. Kindly also talk over with my site =). We could have a hyperlink exchange arrangement between us

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