Demystifying Ship Recycling - Issue 03

10 Dec 2020
Author: Mr. Kiran Thorat & Dr. Anand Hiremath

The Myth: 
Workers get exposed to asbestos during the ship recycling process, which results in chronic occupational health impacts. Disposed asbestos on beaches contaminates the surrounding environment.

The Reality: 

Asbestos is primarily found as an insulation material in the form of laggings on the steam pipes and exhaust pipes of the main engine, aux engines, and boilers on older vessels. Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) are found in flange joints and gaskets of different pipelines. From 1st January 2011, the new installation of materials that contain asbestos is prohibited on all ships. IMO and EUSRR made it mandatory to have an Inventory of Hazardous Material (IHM) onboard vessels. End-of-Life ships are delivered to the recycling facilities with the IHM Part I, II, and III. The places where asbestos and ACM are present are marked and identified as per the ship-specific Ship Recycling Plan (SRP) and Part I of IHM. Where there is a doubt regarding the presence of asbestos, a fresh sample is taken and tested in certified laboratories to confirm the presence of asbestos. The workers use adequate PPE, which comprises helmets, safety glasses, masks, hand gloves, safety shoes, boiler suits, and disposable overalls while removing and packaging asbestos. While handling asbestos to avoid dispersion in the air, an enclosed area is created. The area is barricaded with warning signposts to prevent unauthorized access. Asbestos is made wet before and during the removal process to suppress it. Pipe joints or machinery gaskets containing ACM are removed in such a way that ACM are not disturbed.

Removed asbestos and ACM are packed in the approved packaging, which comprises double-layered plastic bags. The bags are labeled, sealed, and stored in the designated isolated areas in the recycling facility. The recycling yard delivers these bags containing asbestos to the Gujarat Enviro Protection Infrastructure Ltd. (GEPIL) for final disposal. 
The asbestos is solidified and stabilized with cement and water, converting it into solid cubes and disposed of into an engineered landfill at GEPIL (with HDPE geo liner and multiple layers of solids).  
It is evident that with the availability of trained workers, adequate PPE, SOPs, and GEPIL infrastructure, asbestos and ACM are removed and disposed of in a safe and environmentally sound way at HKC compliant recycling facilities in India. The myth of child workers handling asbestos with bare hands and polluting air, water, and land does not exist anymore. The progress made by the recycling facilities in India is noteworthy.

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About Author

Kiran Thorat is a Trader at GMS, where he looks after sustainable ship recycling projects. Kiran believes that Sustainable Recycling is an integral part of Sustainable Shipping and a notable example of a circular economy. He holds a Bachelor's Degree from the Marine Engineering and Research Institute (DMET), India, and a Master's Degree in Energy, Trade, and Finance from Cass Business School, London.

Dr. Anand M. Hiremath is a Civil Engineer and holds a Master's Degree in Environmental Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati), India. He was awarded Doctorate Degree in the year 2016 for his research work on Ship Recycling by the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay), India. In addition, he has a diploma in Industrial safety, is a qualified lead auditor for ISO 9k, 14k and 18k. Dr. Hiremath published the first practical handbook on ship recycling, entitled: "The Green Handbook: A Practical Checklist to Monitor the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships" which highlights the procedures the GMS RSRP follows to help both Ship and Yard Owners recycle a vessel in an environmentally-friendly manner. He is the Chief Sustainability Officer of GMS.

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