The dangers of asbestos in shipbuilding

Last Updated on 22nd April 2021 by Marketing

Asbestos is not just a problem in the construction or building industry, asbestos is also present and used in shipbuilding.

Asbestos is still present onboard various ships and continues to be a huge problem for health and safety, especially during the demolition of ships. Although asbestos was banned in 2000, asbestos containing materials (ACM’s) are still found on 85% of new ships.

The main functions of asbestos on ships are insulation of things like pipelines and the structure of the ship, fire proofing and protection and sound proofing. It can be found in the flange gasket, valves, machinery, deck, bulkhead insulation and pipe lagging and electric cables.

Asbestos used in the insulation of the ships is often friable and can be broken off easily. The most common asbestos used in ships in crocidolite, which whilst it has the highest heat resistance, it is also the most dangerous type of asbestos.

CTI Marine, who manages the maritime industry regularly perform pre delivery surveys and often find asbestos within the ships. With the supply chain of ship parts global, this is an issue world wide. Suppliers are not required to provide a certificate declaring the material content, they only need to declare that it is asbestos free.

The SOLAS convention (safety of life at sea) now states that new ships, built after July 2002 should all be asbestos free. The only way to guarantee this would be to have asbestos surveys carried out by accredited marine specialist and issuing a certificate of compliance.

Asbestos is still legal in some countries that manufacture ships and there are no standards eg. China. The supply chain is huge and multi layered so it cannot be guaranteed where the pieces come from, it could be a country in which asbestos is still legal.

There was recently a case where an Australian charterer wanted to use a ship built in 2012 that had an asbestos free declaration from a survey conducted by a hazardous materials contractor. AMSA (Australian Maritime Safety Authority) would not accept the survey as it was not approved by themselves. When the new survey was done they found asbestos in 3 locations on the ship and the certificate of compliance was only issued when it was removed and safely disposed of.

If asbestos is continued to be used on ships, it can become very dangerous during the demolition. Once asbestos is disturbed and the fibres are released into the air, people are at risk of inhaling them which can lead to the lung cancer Mesothelioma.

Some of the largest ship breaking yards in the world are in Bangladesh and China, both of which have no, or slacker laws regarding the banning and control of asbestos. In these developing countries ship breaking is a profitable industry and workers are exposed to a number of dangers where the presence of asbestos only adds to the health threats. With slacker health and safety regulations workers have no asbestos disposal procedures during scrapping and take out asbestos containing materials with their bare hands, this releases the harmful fibres, and the surrounding environment is exposed to asbestos. Asbestos is not treated as hazardous and is often crushed and reformed and reused. Just as in building construction, it would be more beneficial to ban the use of asbestos is the shipbuilding industry.

At Armco we offer comprehensive asbestos awareness, working with non-licensed asbestos, face fit testing and online training at out office in Bury, Manchester or at a location convenient to you. We also have over 15 years surveying experience, specialising in Asbestos management and refurbishment or demolition surveys in and around Manchester and nationwide. Visit out Training and surveying websites.



Published Feb 02, 2015

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