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When it comes to cargo operations on oil tankers, utmost care should be taken during the loading and discharging operations because of the extremely hazardous nature of the liquid cargo. Needless to say, sometime even a small mistake can take form of an ugly situation involving fire, oil spill, or even an explosion.
As oil tankers carry huge amount of highly flammable material there is always a risk to the ship’s crew and the marine environment.
It is therefore also extremely important that the cargo handling operation on oil tankers is headed by the senior officer in-charge of each department i.e. both in the engine and on the deck.
Every crew member involved in the operation must be aware of his or her duties, both routine and emergency situations.
The ship’s management must take all the necessary precautions and safety measures to ensure a less risky and incident free operation.
In this article, we have enumerated 30 important points which would help to make the cargo handling operation of oil tankers extremely safe and smooth.
1. Close Accommodation Openings: Ensure that all openings to the accommodation area are closed to avoid ingress of cargo vapours during cargo operation. While taking this step, it is obvious that there would be some discomfort to the ship’s crew because of high humidity and temperature condition. However, for the sake of safety such condition should be tolerated for some time.
2. Shut AC if Required: If the AC system’s intake air is drawing cargo vapours, it should be stopped immediately and the intake ports of the accommodation area should be shut.
3. Isolate Window AC Unit: If there is any window AC unit present on the ship, it should be isolated if the need arise.
4. Shut Natural Ventilation: If any kind of natural ventilation is present, it must be trimmed away from the direction of the cargo vapour flow. In case it is not possible to do so, the ventilation should be isolated and covered.
5. Shut Cargo Tank Lids: All Cargo tanks lids containing hydrocarbon vapours must be in shut position.
6. Shut Sighting and Ullage Ports: All sighting and ullage ports must be kept shut during cargo or ballast operation. They should be opened only when required and with due precautions.
7. Keep Vents in Operation: Cargo Tank Vents, PV valves and high velocity vent valves should be kept in operation during the cargo handling procedure.
8. Shut Segregated ballast tanks lid: Segregated ballast tanks lid should be kept in closed position to avoid ingress of hazardous vapour during loading/ discharging operation.
9. Shut Washing Cover During Tank Washing and Gas Freeing Operation: While tank washing or gas freeing operation, the washing covers should be removed. However, during all other times it must be on its place and in closed position.
10. Check high pressure alarm: Check High pressure alarm of the cargo tank before starting the loading operation.
11. Check gland condition of pumps: Check gland condition of cargo pumps located in pump room.
12. Check Strainer cover, inspection plates and drain plug: Strainer cover, inspection plates and drain plug in pump room must be in proper position.
13. Check pump room at regular intervals of time: Regular watch on pump room should be carried out during cargo handling.
14. Check alarms and trips: All alarms and trips should be checked before any cargo operation.
15. Check Cargo hoses and flange connections: Cargo hoses and flange connections used for oil handling must be checked thoroughly before use.
16. Handle hoses properly: Hoses must be lifted and should not be dragged on the deck. Hoses should also be supported at a number of places to avoid twisting.
17. Adjust Hoses when required: As the cargo operation proceeds, the draught of the ship will also change. The hoses must be adjusted according to the condition to avoid stretch.
18. Check Flanges: All flanges must be properly tightened by bolting each bolt. New gasket must be used at every operation.
19. Remove flange with precautions: While removing blank flange from any section of pipeline, ensure that it does not contain oil at a pressure and that the blank flange used is of steel or other approved metal.
20. Check limits of elevation for metal cargo arm: The limit of elevation for metal cargo arm must be checked as it is designed to operate under varying elevations because of the tide effects. This must be compared to the ship’s data before approving the cargo operation.
21. Handle parking lock carefully: There is parking lock provided in the arm which must not be removed unless the metal arm is empty or else oil spill can take place.
22. Remove ice: If there is any ice on the arm, it must be removed to avoid imbalance before opening the parking lock.
23. Keep an eye on mooring ropes: When an arm is connected for operation, mooring ropes must be monitored and if excessive drifting is there, operation must be stopped immediately.
24. Avoid Charge Arching: All Ship shore piping, flanges, and metal arm must be earthed to avoid any charge arcing.
25. Check emergency release: Emergency release must be checked before hand and if possible draining arrangement should be kept ready in order to drain as much oil as possible in case of oil spill emergency.
26. Ensure adequate light is provided at night: Adequate lights must be provided at cargo station and pump room during night operation.
27. Check the weather condition: Weather condition should be discussed by the master of the ship along with the terminal in-charge.
28. Stop in Rough Weather: The ship cargo operation must be stopped immediately (whether or not the ship tanks are equipped with IG system) during lightening, storms, and rough weather condition.
29. Keep emergency equipment in standby position: All oil spill fighting equipment and fire fighting equipment must be ready at all times.
For an efficient and safe cargo operation the crew must be trained at regular intervals of time, explaining them the importance of safety during oil handling.