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Marine Asbestos

Marine Asbestos
Regulations under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) state that if asbestos is found onboard a ship built after July 2002 then the vessel’s flag registry, in conjunction with its classification society, issues a non-extendable exemption certificate, providing the owner with a three year window in which to remove the asbestos.

 Any ship built before 2002, may contain asbestos but must have a hazardous materials’ register and management plan in place to cover any maintenance or repair work involving asbestos. This situation could be considered somewhat ridiculous and, while originally it might have been thought a straight forward move to ban asbestos in ships built after 2002, the reality is that we have a system that’s failing.


It’s possible to correct this by ensuring that all new vessels have an approved asbestos survey before they are delivered to operators but there are significant logistical challenges ahead.

The amount of asbestos found onboard depends on several factors, including where the ship was built. In our experience, ships built in the Far East and Turkey have a high percentage of items containing asbestos. Ships can also be contaminated through items brought on board by the owners, despite assurances that they are asbestos free.

So, what can be done to ensure an asbestos free ship? There are some important steps to take but it’s important to engage the services of an ISO17020 accredited company, like Heritage Asbestos Ltd, which has the experience and resources to undertake a comprehensive survey. Then, if asbestos is found, have it removed and instigate a quality management system that periodically has materials supplied to the ship tested to see if they are safe. After a refit, it will be important to undertake an update survey.

A proactive, prudent approach can prevent potential litigation for claimed exposure to asbestos from the ships crew, protecting ship owners. It can also enhance the true value of the ship and eliminates any potential issues if asbestos was found during a pre-purchase survey and, ultimately, protects the crew and anyone else working on the ship.

The IMO would be justified in modifying the SOLAS requirement for marine asbestos in ships and institute a more manageable procedure that would contribute to securing the safety of seafarers. This modification would also spur owners into actioning the IHM inspections now rather than leaving it to the last minute. It really is matter of urgency therefore, that the following principles are adopted by the EU and Hong Kong Convention as an approved amended regulation:

  • All new ships  must have an accredited asbestos survey
  • All existing ships must have an asbestos survey, performed by an accredited marine specialist ISO17020 survey company, this can be part of an approved IHM survey
  • If asbestos is found then an asbestos management plan should be established. All high risk asbestos should be removed within 3 years. Low risk   asbestos items should be encapsulated and replaced when maintenance requirements allow and condition monitoring should be recorded

Looking to the future, we are seeing some flag states adopting a more realistic approach by accepting an asbestos register and a management plan for ship operations and in planned refits and maintenance, overseen by licensed contractors working onsite to ensure the safe removal and management of ACM. The flag state may accept this beyond the three years as an equivalence to the removal of ACM with a certification to the vessel and notification to IMO accordingly.

Heritage Asbestos Ltd is fully accredited to deal with Marine Asbestos.

If you have any questions or need advice on Marine Asbestos feel free to contact us here