Solicitors at law firm HFW have warned shipowners not to treat upcoming IHM surveys carried out to comply with the EU Ship Recycling Regulation as a formality
To comply with the European Union Ship Recycling Regulation, ships above 500 gt calling at a port or anchorage in an EU member state, whether registered with an EU member state or not, must be surveyed to compile an IHM no later than 31 December 2020. Non-EU flagged ships calling in the EU must produce a ‘statement of compliance’.
HFW partner Rory Butler and senior associate Jenny Salmon warned that shipowners should not assume IHM surveys will be a formality, paying special attention to the potential presence of asbestos on vessels.
The survey may be the first time a vessel has actually been tested for asbestos despite the common practice requiring shipyards to certify newly built vessels as ‘asbestos free’, and obtaining Class certification of compliance with SOLAS. The presence of asbestos in newbuilds has been prohibited since 1 January 2011.
However HFW said the threshold for what constitutes ‘asbestos free’ varies in different regions.
In the EU, ‘asbestos free’ means with an asbestos content of no more than 0.1%, in the US the figure is 1% and in China, there is no legal prohibition on using asbestos.
Most nations do not require an independent surveyor to confirm the absence of asbestos before a ship can be entered with the nation’s flag.
As a result, there is limited practical regulation of the problem of asbestos aboard a ship and owners may be unaware their ships contain large quantities of asbestos.
HFW added that shipowners cannot assume that certification of SOLAS compliance issued by a vessel’s classification society means the vessel is free from asbestos. The firm said certification can be issued based on inaccurate documentation rather than on testing by the certifying party itself.
“Such certifications are often based on the shipyard’s own confirmations or those of the yard’s supplier/sub-contractor, without any independent checks (or sometimes any checks at all) of the actual materials installed on board having been carried out by Class.”
Solicitors added that while the EU regulation does not require owners to take any action to remove asbestos found during an IHM survey, SOLAS does. SOLAS gives owners up to 3 years from when the asbestos is found to have it removed by a professional asbestos removal company.
The Hong Kong Convention, which addresses the issue detecting hazardous materials on board ships, has been ratified by Japan, India and Germany in the last year and looks likely to enter into force in 2023.