With reference to new builds, IMO and SOLAS require the onsite classification society surveyor to check the necessary equipment material specification documents, and the shipyards overall declaration that the ship is “asbestos free”. The class surveyor then list this on the ships papers as a “statement of fact”. By experience a lot of owners have found that this “Declaration” is not adequate because their ships have been inspected by a flag state and then they have the embarrassment of the ship being found with asbestos, which can impact their on going operation and charter agreements.

The Hong Kong convention states that existing ships can only be determined to be “asbestos free” by having a survey with a strategic set of material sampling and testing carried out by a marine specialist ISO17020 hazardous material survey company. Countries such as Australia and the Netherlands have adopted the HK Convention standards and are very proactive with over 5000 inspections each year.

CTI are working with shipyards and owners on their new builds worldwide, both the yards and the ship owners are keen to make sure the ships are delivered asbestos free, but both parties are often let down by their suppliers as there is often a lack of understanding of what constitutes a material being “asbestos free”, as it differs from country to country. Australia is 0, Europe is 0.1%, USA is 1.0% and China can be up to 15%.

To give you an idea of what’s involved with asbestos surveys this is an example of a series of new builds surveyed, the number of inspection stages and the number of samples that were found to be positive for asbestos.


In addition, asbestos materials can be introduced to a ship at the final stages when the owners spare parts are delivered to the ship and these should be inspected before the ship goes into service.

Whether the ship owners new build contracts has a clause that states the ships should be asbestos free or not, they should have an asbestos survey carried out during the build process, if there is a contractual conflict that prevents this, they should have a survey carried out straight after delivery. Any issues can be addressed straight away instead of risking problems with Port State inspections and possible legal claims in the future.

Yard declarations are progressively not being accepted by class and certainly not accepted by some countries.

The non acceptance of yard declarations was discussed when CTI Marine did a recent seminar for ABS

All stakeholders should specify in a new build contract that the ship should be “asbestos free” which means 0% and the ship yard suppliers should be advised accordingly. To protect against any breach of this requirement, the yards should be vigilant and as part of their quality assurance, use an experienced survey company to verify the condition of the ship. Insurance company under writers should institute this as a requirement, which would protect them in the future from the possibility of having  crew claims for asbestos exposure. The costs of proving non exposure will be far greater than having an asbestos survey in the first place.