The deadly dangers of asbestos have been known for many years, but the material is still being used illegally on some ships.

Over the years the Union has recovered compensation for hundreds of members suffering from asbestos-related illnesses, and this work remains just as important as ever – whether the illness was caused recently or from asbestos exposure decades ago.

As well as supporting members with compensation claims, Nautilus campaigns for the eradication of asbestos from the shipping industry. There’s more on our work below.

Nautilus asbestos register

Nautilus maintains a register where members can record their exposure to asbestos – at any stage in their career. The insidious nature of asbestos exposure means that fibres of the substance can lodge in the body and only cause illness years later, so it is important to gather historical as well as recent evidence. The register records:

  • the vessels members worked on that are known to contain asbestos
  • the companies that employed them on these vessels
  • a description of the work they were doing, with dates and witnesses

This register has been in existence for many years, and contains the confidential personal details of more than 370 members who believe that they have been exposed to the substance whilst at work. The information on this register can then be used to support any claims that may arise if evidence of asbestosis or other related diseases emerge.

To add your name to the Nautilus asbestos register, please contact the Nautilus legal department and request an Exposure to Asbestos Registration Form. When you have completed the form, please return it to the department with copies of any supporting documents (for instance, your seaman’s discharge book provides good evidence of the ships on which you served).

You do not need to be showing symptoms of an asbestos-related illness; the aim of the register is to collect a body of evidence which may be needed in the future – especially if your experience tallies with that of another member.

If you are unfortunate enough to contract an asbestos related disease, then you should inform the legal department without delay, as time limits apply for making compensation claims.

The campaign against asbestos use

For many decades, asbestos was widely used on ships – in areas such as fire bulkheads, ceiling panels, exhaust and pipeline insulation, cable transit insulation, gaskets, and electrical installations – because of its excellent insulation and fire-resistance qualities.

However, because exposure to asbestos fibres is linked to a range of illnesses, including asbestosis, mesothelioma and cancer, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention rules banned the use of asbestos on new ships with effect from 2002.

Despite this, the Union is concerned that shipyards in certain parts of the world are continuing to make extensive use of the substance, and that asbestos is coming onboard ships through spare parts – even sometimes in products that are stamped asbestos-free, because of the problem of counterfeit parts. Nautilus discovered a newly-built ship riddled with asbestos in 2016, prompting renewed efforts to tackle the threat posed to seafarers by the deadly material.

Nautilus has taken its evidence of present-day asbestos problems to the International Federation of Ship Masters' Associations, governments, and the International Maritime Organisation. The Union has led calls for tougher action to ensure compliance with the national and international rules governing the use of asbestos, along with training for seafarers to help them identify asbestos products and take precautionary measures.

Ship Recycling Convention

Nautilus is pressing for the adoption of the Ship Recycling Convention requirements for all ships of 500gt and above to develop and maintain an Inventory of Hazardous Materials.

This ship-specific document will have to list all the materials onboard a ship that may present health or environmental hazards that require careful handling or special awareness.

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