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General precautions for carrying chemical cargoes - preventing accidental spillage & other precautions

Chemical tankers are required to transport a wide range of different cargoes, and many tankers are designed to carry a large number of segregated products simultaneously. To cover all aspect of safety handling such noxious liquid chemicals following general precautions should be observed irrespective of cargoes carried.

Additional precautions for specific cargoes are necessary and should also be incorporated in the ship’s cargo handling procedures.

These general precautions should be observed at all times, both in port and at sea as applicable. Ports and terminals may have additional and different precautions and it is the Master’s responsibility to ensure that local regulations are understood and observed


Cargo Information

The IMO chemical codes as well as Marpol Annex II require that certain information must available on board prior to loading, reference is made to the IBC code and the BCH code. It is the Master’s responsibility to ensure that the necessary information, including shipping document and Material Safety Data Sheets are on board for each cargo, and available to all personnel onboard and involved in cargo handling. Loading should not commence before the Master is satisfied that the necessary information for safe handling of the cargo is available.


Chemical tanker precautions at berth

Fig:Chemical tanker general safety precautions at berth

Preventing accidental spillage

Ships personnel must maintain a close watch throughout cargo operations to ensure that any escape of cargo does not go unnoticed. In this respect, it is essential that all valves are closed if not in use.

Personnel operating inert gas plants must be aware that, with some inert gas generators, there is a risk of oil pollution via the cooling water discharge when the burner does not ignite first time in its start cycle. Where such a risk exists it is better to start the generator and check before the vessel arrives at the berth and ensure no leakage of fuel.

Cargo or bunker tanks which have been “topped-off” must be checked frequently during the remaining loading operations to avoid an overflow.

If an accidental spillage or leakage of cargo occurs during any operation, the relevant operation must be stopped immediately. The operation must not be restarted until the cause has been established and the defect corrected.

Modern vessels are supplied with an approved outfit of clean-up materials in compliance with MARPOL and OPA90 requirements. Clean up materials must be available at the bunker or cargo manifold, for the prompt removal of any spillage on deck. Portable salvage pumps (air operated and constructed of suitable chemical resistant materials) suitably grounded and preferably hard-piped or connected to suitable containment tank(s), shall be deployed at the after-end of each side of the main deck.

Chemicals used for clean up on deck must not be allowed to enter the water unless permission has been obtained from the harbour authorities.

Should an cargo spill accident take place then the appropriate authorities, as detailed in the vessel’s Oil Spill Response Plan (US waters), or SOPEP (other waters) must immediately be informed. The contact sheet required by the Plan must be completed prior to arrival in port.




Personal protective equipment

All tankers designated for carriage of dangerous chemicals in bulk must have on board suitable protective equipment and clothing for the protection of crew involved in cargo handling and tank cleaning operations. Some details of these will be found within the Safety & Environmental Manual. The types and quantities of protective equipment as well as additional safety equipment should be in a strict compliance with requirements of IBC/BCH Code.

All ships carrying dangerous cargoes should have on board medical first-aid equipment, including oxygen resuscitation equipment and antidotes for cargo carried in compliance with recommendations listed in IMO -–MFAG (Medical First Aid Guide) and WHO – IMGS (International Medical Guide for Ships).


Openings in deckhouses and superstructures

Regulations require that portholes in the superstructure within a certain distance of the cargo deck must be fixed shut. These design features must not be modified in any way. All doors, portholes and other openings should be kept closed during cargo operations. Doors that need to be closed (except when in use) in port must be marked accordingly. Mechanical ventilation should be stopped and air conditioning units operated on closed cycle or stopped in situations where toxic or flammable vapours may enter the accommodation. Low pressure in accommodation must be avoided which will occur if air conditioning is on full re-circulation and some extraction fans e.g. for toilets are still in use.


Engine Room Equipment

Boiler tubes, uptakes, exhaust manifolds and combustion equipment must be maintained in good condition as a precaution against funnel fires and sparks. In case of a funnel fire, or if sparks are emitted from the funnel, cargo operations involving flammable products should be stopped, and at sea, the course may be altered to prevent sparks falling onto the tank deck.


Excluding vapour from machinery spaces

Care should be taken to ensure that flammable or toxic cargo vapour does not enter the engine room spaces. Special attention should be paid to engine room equipment connected to the cargo deck area.
In case of an accident or an emergency that could give rise to a situation where toxic or flammable vapours are likely to enter the engine room spaces, consideration should be given to its possible effect on personnel and/or equipment and necessary preventive actions should be taken.


Following detail pages explain chemical tanker hazards & various precautionary measures .

  1. Emergency towing-off wires ( fire wires) ,means of access ,deckhouses and superstructures safety precautions, requirement of chemical tankers readiness to move etc.


  2. Emergency towing off wires and access to ship requirements


  3. Mooring precautions for chemical tankers at berth


  4. Assessing wind & weather conditions


  5. Restriction on using radio equipments and other mobile devices in cargo working areas


  6. Effects of Tugs and other craft alongside chemical tankers


  7. Preparations for hot work and safety precautions





Below reference publications provide useful guidance and international regulations for carrying hazardous chemicals at sea.



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