As the name implies, “shipbreaking yards” are areas in which ships and other water vessels are broken down for asbestos disposal. Because many parts of ships and watercraft are comprised of asbestos, those who work in shipbreaking yards may experience dangerous levels of asbestos exposure and, as a result, develop serious, potentially fatal health problems.

To protect themselves, shipyard workers should be aware of:

What is Shipbreaking?

Shipbreaking, the process of deconstructing watercraft, typically occurs at piers, dismantling slips or dry docks. Once a ship is deemed unusable and sent to a shipbreaking yard, workers remove all gears and equipment from the ship. They then go through the laborious, complicated process of taking apart the vessel’s infrastructure, recycling when possible and scrapping the remaining textiles.

Watercraft sent to shipbreaking yards are those that can no longer be affordably repaired. In general, most ships have a lifespan of two or three decades before being sent to a shipbreaking yard for disposal and/or recycling.

How Asbestos Exposure Occurs in Shipbreaking Yards

As with many construction applications, shipbreaking puts workers face to face with hazardous asbestos particles as they come into contact with:

  • boiler rooms, kilns and industrial ovens
  • certain types of cements
  • gaskets and valves (such as those in ship engines or other on-board machinery)
  • insulation (and insulation coverings)
  • pipes
  • sealants and spray coatings
  • tar
  • tiles and shingles

While each of these and other materials containing asbestos are toxic in and of themselves, the enclosed, damp environment of the ship typically amplifies workers’ levels of asbestos exposure. This is due to the inherent lack of ventilation in the small quarters of ships.

Another factor unique to the asbestos exposure at shipbreaking yards is the fact that, because shipbreaking workers are taking structures apart, they are naturally disturbing the materials. This means that toxic asbestos particles are more likely to become airborne – and, therefore, more likely to be inhaled – in shipbreaking yards than in other industries.

Asbestos Cancer & Related Illnesses

Asbestos exposure has been linked to a number of serious and potentially deadly conditions including mesothelioma cancer, asbestosis and lung cancer. If you or a loved one has worked in shipbreaking yards and has been diagnosed with an asbestos disease, you may be entitled to compensation to help pay for your treatment costs. Contact mesothelioma treatment centers today for more information.