If you or a loved one works on or around ships in the Carolinas, across the country or internationally, you may feel grateful that regulations prevent the use of materials containing asbestos on ships. You may be like many who hope the terrifying prospect of developing symptoms of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illness will soon be a fading memory of a dark time in history.
Sadly, that may not be the case anytime soon. Merchant Marines, National Guardsmen, longshoremen, shipbuilders and many others may be shocked to learn of the prevalence of asbestos in newbuilt ships, not to mention those existing ships with asbestos in their operating systems.
How does asbestos get onto ships?
A recent inspection to determine compliance with International Maritime Organization regulations discovered that more than half of all new and existing ships contain asbestos. This is even true for newly built ships that come to the U.S. from other countries. Since every country has its own laws dictating the threshold of asbestos that is acceptable in a ship, you can understand how difficult it is to reach some acceptable uniformity when it comes to ships built internationally.
Nevertheless, in 2011, the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea banned asbestos from all new ships. Ships built after 2002 may have asbestos only in very specific areas. If an inspection uncovers asbestos where it should not be, the ship owner has three years to remove and replace it using the services of a licensed professional. Inspectors believe even ships built in the U.S. may pick up spare parts that contain the deadly substance, such as gaskets, from other countries.
Inspectors advise ship owners to obtain a professional inspection of any new vessels they receive. The purpose of the inspection is to locate and mitigate any hidden areas where builders, repairs or maintenance may have used asbestos in violation of U.S. and international maritime laws.
You may expect ship owners would take this simple step for the protection of those like you who work or have loved ones who work on board. Sadly, not every ship owner will comply. This leaves you and others vulnerable to asbestos exposure. Such exposure may result in deadly diseases, such as mesothelioma and lung cancers, the symptoms of which may not manifest for years or even decades after you inhale or ingest the microscopic asbestos particles.