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.”