27 September 2012

Asbestos is still on the Agenda

Health hazard remains a big danger and ship-owners should be ready to manage it, reports Girija Shettar for Fairplay Magazine

Since January 2011, SOLAS (chapter II-I) has completely prohibited the new installation of materials containing asbestos. Despite this, even if a ship is clean of asbestos when built, it may not be so after a refit in a country that has not banned the material, such as China.

There, materials can be up to 10% asbestos and still be labelled ‘asbestos free’. Maintaining a double standard – one for non-ban and one for ban countries – may lead to lapses, as the recent recall of more than 18,000 Chinese-made, asbestos-containing cars from Australia, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Singapore demonstrates.

Shipping industry professionals are under no illusions that asbestos is still a hazard. UK maritime professionals union Nautilus said: “It is a serious problem”. Union senior national secretary Allan Graveson was emphatic: “There is no safe level of asbestos”. He recounted incidents in Brazil where wives of men who worked with asbestos had died after coming into contact with spores when washing the men’s clothes.

Three of Graveson’s friends have died from mesothelioma, the asbestos-caused cancer, after exposure to the toxin when it was contained in engine room insulation. “It’s a horrific death. You get a diagnosis of death and about 18 months [to live],” he said.

Graveson claimed asbestos was still finding its way into ships in the UK but that the country had a “light touch” in regulating its use. By contrast, Denmark takes asbestos very seriously and has a strong enforcement regime, he observed. He claimed that tonnes of asbestos was imported into the UK from Canada, mostly in the form of spare parts.

Lloyd’s Register’s regulatory affairs specialist, Robin Townsend, said that because some countries do not control asbestos, it will find its way on to new ships “unless very high vigilance is maintained”. He reminded ship-owners that asbestos will exist on ships built before country bans were put in place. “Management of asbestos is a very important safety item, which should be recognised under ISM procedures,” he advised.

Phil Rozier, director of UK ship survey company Lucion Marine, advised a practical approach. ”Asbestos can be managed, maintained and dealt with quite easily,” he said, explaining that management depends on its type, quantity and the likelihood of it being disturbed. “It’s about managing the associated risk.” He added that a dedicated asbestos survey was “very useful”. This, along with an annual re-inspection, is a legal requirement under UK law, he noted.

Source: 27 September 2012

1 comment:

sulman farooq said...

There, materials can be up to 10% asbestos and still be labelled ‘asbestos free’ Marine Asbestos . Maintaining a double standard