Hidden Dangers During Marine Retrofits

In the process of a ballast water retrofit? Installing a scrubber system? Stuart A. McKenna, Technical Manager at Cleanship Solutions, shares some practical precautions to ensure safety during installation and subsequent on board operations.

A large surge in demand for marine retrofits and adjustments to existing engine rooms and machinery spaces is forecasted in the upcoming years. This is in part due to new regulatory developments within the shipping industry such as the IMO’s Ballast Water Convention and the 2020 Global Sulphur Cap.

Whilst the primary aim of these retrofits is installing systems which protects the marine environment, there is a hidden hazard that might be placing the health of those who are involved in the installation and subsequent operation of these systems at risk i.e. Asbestos.

Asbestos has been prevalent in the construction of marine assets for over 100 years. While current SOLAS legislation has prohibited asbestos apart from a few exceptions in vessels built after 2002, and a total asbestos ban from 2011, asbestos is unfortunately still being found onboard newly constructed vessels.

The root cause of asbestos continuing to be found onboard, and this can include the new equipment and components being installed, is a result of non-compliant supply chains. With parts and components generally originating in countries where asbestos is not banned, the supply chain can becoming ‘infected’ with asbestos containing materials. The problem is that compliance is often assumed on the basis of a paper based exercise rather than a thorough audit of supply chains involving random assurance sampling and testing where necessary. The consequences of the presence of ‘unintended’ asbestos on board can not only affect the health of those unwittingly exposed to asbestos during the retrofit and operation but can also cause problems in relation to detentions at port, personal injury lawsuits and reputational damage.

It is therefore highly recommended before commencing any retrofits that the ship owner obtains an Inventory of Hazardous Materials (IHM) to ensure the presence of any hazardous materials is detected before any work commences. An IHM is a document which outlines the locations and estimated qualities of a list of defined hazardous materials present on board marine assets, including asbestos, which have the potential to cause harm to human health or the environment.

Cleanship Solutions takes a unique approach, by offering the ability to combine our initial retrofit surveys and 3D laser scanning with a hazardous material survey. This means any potential asbestos issues can be managed in advance of the retrofit, the health of the installers and those onboard is not compromised and savings of over £10,000 per vessel can be achieved from the cost of compliance.

In light of the fact that every ship entering EU ports will be required to have an IHM by 2020 it makes sense to combine compliance activities instead of paying for two or three different teams to mobilise to each vessel independently.

In these challenging times for shipping, it is important that good value for money is achieved. By planning ahead and integrating IHMs within the planning stage of retrofits, owners and operators are not only reducing future liabilities, by addressing the appropriate risks, but also making significant savings in what will become an expensive industry as owners waiting to the last minute scramble to meet the 2020 IHM deadline.