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Hazards of carrying benzene and methanol at sea - safety precautions

Benzene is a natural part of crude oil and gasoline. It is a widely used chemical in many industrial processes including plastics, resins, synthetic fibres, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides.

Benzene is IMDG Class 3, U.N. 1114. A highly flammable colourless or light yellow liquid chemical with a sweet odour. Evaporates very quickly and its heavier-than-air vapour may sink into low-lying areas. Dissolves only slightly in water and will float on top of water.

Benzene is known as a strong carcinogen and known to cause leukaemia. When handling cargoes with more than Benzene concentration of 0.5%, the Master is to ensure that all personnel involved are aware of the long term hazards. Below safety precautions are useful for handling benzene
  1. This cargo should be stored in sealed containers which must be in good condition and will not allow escape of vapours or liquids.
  2. Its hazardous properties are that it is colourless, clear characteristic odour, boiling point of 5 degC, flashes below melting point of minus 11 deg C.
  3. Fire-fighting techniques for this substance are that water spray, CO2, dry chemical or foam extinguishers can be used. Self-contained breathing apparatus sets should be used, as prolonged exposure can have chronic effects.

  4. Medical effects:

    On contact will cause redness and irritation
    is absorbed through skin
    will cause nausea, headaches and vomiting
    high exposure will cause unconsciousness and death.

  5. Treatments after physical contact:

    On contact, contaminated clothing must be removed immediately
    area contaminated should be washed for at least ten minutes with fresh water and, if there are signs of burns, wash for a further ten minutes
    keep a close eye on the patient for at least twenty four hours
    if burns are severe and extensive, shore side should be contacted for medical advice.

Warning signs are to be posted at the gangway and on the offshore side near the manifold stating the following text:


Safety guards against Benzene loading & gas freeing operations

The following precautions must be given to the crew in connection with Benzene loading and gas freeing operations: For details regarding the minimum safety standards for ships carrying Benzene, reference is to be made to MSC Circular 10945.

Methanol hazards

Methanol is extremely toxic and if ingested, or inhaled, can cause a wide range of harmful effects from sickness, heart and liver damage to reproductive harm, blindness or even death. It can also be absorbed through the skin.

Methanol is very flammable. The pure liquid catches fire easily and aqueous solutions containing a significant amount of methanol can also catch fire. The flame from burning methanol is virtually invisible and it is therefore not always easy to tell whether a methanol flame is still alight.

Methanol is often a component in “bootleg” liquor (illegally brewed and distilled alcoholic beverage) and there have been numerous cases in the past in which the consumption of such a drink has been fatal or resulted in blindness.

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. 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).

We have summarized below some of the special chemical cargoes frequently carried onboard chemical tankers

Handling benzene & methanol safety precautions

Handling carcinogens requirements for certain chemical cargoes

Handling ACRYLONITRILE safety precautions

handling ISOCYANATES safety precautions

handling Sulfuric acid safety precautions

handling Phenol safety precautions

Requirements of various grade chemical cargo heating

Handling benzene & methanol safety precautions

Personal protective equipments for carcinogens & cyanide-like cargoes onboard chemical tankers

Following detail pages explain all liquid chemical hazards & precautionary measures while carrying at sea.

  1. Toxicology and associated hazards onboard chemical tankers
  2. Hazards of vapour given off by a flammable liquid while carrying at sea
  3. Reactivity of various noxious liquid chemicals
  4. Most corrosive chemicals carried onboard chemical tankers
  5. What is putrefaction process of liquid chemicals ?
  6. Specific gravity,Vapour pressure and boiling point,Electrostatic charging & measuring Viscosity
  7. General precautions onboard chemical tankers
  8. Mooring precautions onboard chemical tankers
  9. Berth precautions onboard chemical tankers
  10. Cold weather countermeasures, avoiding electric storms
  11. Restriction on using radio equipments and other mobile devices in cargo working areas
  12. Handling precautions for carcinogens or cyanide-like substances
  13. Means of access (gangways or accommodation ladders) safety precautions
  14. Preparations for hot work and safety precautions
  15. Precautions against static electricity

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

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