What are HazMats?

The term “HazMats” refers to any material that has properties which may result in risk or injury to health and/or extensive damage to facilities. Many neither smell nor can be tasted. Some can be detected because they cause physical reactions such as watering eyes or nausea. Sometimes the substance can be identified from placards, labels or markings.

HazMats can be: corrosive, ignitable, reactive to water, heat or pressure, radioactive, toxic or infectious.

The most common HazMats on board ships:

Asbestos: Asbestos is a group of inorganic, naturally occurring crystalline silicates. Continuous exposure to elevated levels causes serious illness and can be deadly. Onboard ships, asbestos is used in gaskets, floor tiles or brake linings, paint colours and other coatings. It may also be present in ropes, insulating blankets, exhaust insulation, wall panels and ceiling tiles. According to the SOLAS Chapter II–1 Regulation 3–5 and its accompanying Unified Interpretation as from 24 November 2016, asbestos is banned without exception for all new installations effective as of 1 January 2011.

Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS): ODS are fluorocarbon compounds that contribute to stratospheric ozone depletion when they break down. Onboard ships, ODS are found as a refrigerant in cooling and air condition systems. They are also widely used in insulation foams. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs R11, R12, R113, R500) are banned under the Montreal Protocol, Hong Kong Convention and MARPOL Annex VI as well. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs R22, R123) will be phased out at the latest in 2020/204

For ships built before 1 July 2002

Ships built before 1 July 2002 may contain asbestos, but it should be managed properly - further guidance is available in MSC/Circ.1045 "Guidelines for Maintenance and Monitoring of On-Board Materials Containing Asbestos".

For ships built between 1 July 2002 and 1 January 2011

For all ships, new installation of materials which contain asbestos shall be prohibited except for:

  • vanes used in rotary vane compressors and rotary vane vacuum pumps;
  • watertight joints and linings used for the circulation of fluids when, at high temperature (in excess of 350ºC) or pressure (in excess of 7 x 106 Pa), there is a risk of fire, corrosion or toxicity; and
  • supple and flexible thermal insulation assemblies used for temperatures above 1000ºC.

For ships built after 1 January 2011

The 2009 Amendments to SOLAS (resolution MSC.282(86)), further amended the text to prohibit all new installation of asbestos on board ships. These came into force on 1 January 2011;

IMO MSC.1/Circ.1374, Article 13 reads as follows:

“When asbestos is detected on board, in contravention of SOLAS regulation II-1/3-5, action should be taken to have it removed. The removal – assigned to professional asbestos removal companies – should take place within a time frame of 3 years from the date when the contravention is found and should be conducted in close consultation with and, where applicable, under the supervision of the flag State concerned. In such cases, a suitable exemption certificate should be issued by the flag State.”

If Asbestos is detected on board, it may affect Safety Construction Certificate of the ship according to SOLAS requirement. Shipowner shall notify the flag state, and flag state would either decide to issue an exemption certificate or would give a time frame to the shipowner to remove the asbestos according to MSC/Circ.1045.