Flagging-in ships with asbestos

For a long time, asbestos was considered a miracle product: the natural mineral is fire resistant, an insulator, easy to process and inexpensive. But asbestos causes illness and can give rise to cancer. BG Verkehr summarized the things shipping companies have to observe when they flag-in a ship that is contaminated with asbestos.

Those who worked with asbestos in the past often used to breath in the dust and thereby the fine asbestos fibres. A possible result: malignant cancer tumours or changes in the lining of the lung. The employer's liability insurance associations recognize asbestos as a cause of a lung disease known as asbestosis, and as an occupational disease. Asbestosis is the most common cause of death among the terminal occupational diseases. There can be several decades between working with asbestos and the onset of the disease. On average the latency period is 38 years.

Since 1993, asbestos may not be produced or used in Germany, and on a European level since 2005. From 2019 all ships under EU flag from 500 GT must have an inventory of hazardous materials, which must also include asbestos. With the Regulation EU/1257/2013 the EU legally implements the provisions of the Ship Recycling Convention (“Hong Kong Convention”).

Globally, however, there is no ban on asbestos. So, there may still be asbestos present on older ships. If such a ship flags-in under the German flag, the shipowner will have to conduct a risk assessment, compile an asbestos cadaster and arrange mandatory medical check-ups for the seafarers. The prevention division at BG Verkehr has developed a compilation of the shipowner’s obligations when flagging-in a ship that is contaminated with asbestos (in German only).