Over 30 years after being banned for decades of causing the fatal diseases of asbestosis and mesothelioma, the Western World is being alerted to the horrifying reports of the millions of tonnes of major asbestos mining and export industries which are growing and spreading throughout the developing world.
However, a further cause of concern was recently raised after Lloyd’s List revealed that substantial quantities of asbestos had been found built into a 2009-built, 8,400 DWT Turkish chemtanker, arriving in the Netherlands.
The issue of asbestos being found to be used on newbuild ships was raised with the International Maritime Organization, whose impending regulatory changes may mean that asbestos would have to be removed from ships prior to scrapping.
Under the terms of the Safety of Life at Sea convention, the use of asbestos material has been banned on ships constructed since 2002. However, alarms have been raised as increasingly, classification and specialist asbestos removal organisations have testified that it is still being employed by many shipyards, particularly in China.
The report also revealed that although statutory certificates, and an accompanying ‘asbestos free’ declaration had been provided, more than 5,000 gaskets containing asbestos in the piping systems were found on board, which took as long as six months to remove.
In addition, it was discovered that asbestos is still available for use in shipbuilding, but because of a widespread lack of asbestos awareness, very few know that asbestos is still used on ships worldwide, notwithstanding being officially banned.
Countless thousands of British shipbuilders and dockside workers were exposed to asbestos right up to the latter decades of the 20th century when it was still considered a cheap and plentiful insulating material for all manner of ship building applications.
As a result of the daily continued exposure, great numbers of ship workers succumbed to asbestos related disease, a legacy which still continues to this day due to the long latency periods before asbestos symptoms start to appear.
The Anglo-Dutch seafarers union, Nautilus International, is to bring the issue of the use of asbestos on ships to the attention of the Trades Union Congress in September, at their annual conference in Manchester. The Union, outraged that asbestos is still being used after being banned, intend to ask for action to “ target countries that seem to think they are exempt from the regulations.”