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Unsafe ports mooring precautions for chemical tankers -avoiding claims

Chemical terminals are often located in tidal areas or rivers, with other ships passing at close distance, thus making proper mooring a significant safety issue. The consequences of a chemical tanker ranging along a jetty or breaking away from a berth could be disastrous, especially during a cargo transfer involving multiple different chemicals. Correct and sufficient mooring is therefore of the utmost importance.

Mooring requirements and arrangements are usually determined by the location and the layout of the terminal, supplemented by advice from the pilot.

chemical tanker navigation at sea
Moorings should be regularly checked and tended to ensure that they remain effective. The master should ensure that, during cargo operations, sufficient personnel are available for mooring adjustments.

Chemical tanker precautions at berth

Fig:Chemical tanker general safety precautions at berth

Basic port / Berth safety : A safe port / berth is one that a vessel may approach, use, and leave without being exposed to danger. A port will not be unsafe if any dangers inherent to the port may be avoided by ordinary standards of navigation and seamanship.

Entering safe ports : The location, layout, and other physical characteristics of a port nominated by charterers must be safe for the particular ship. The port must have a sufficient access to meteorological services which issue weather reports in a language which the Master would understand. Finally, in addition to physical dangers, a port may be unsafe as a result of a dangerous political situation which is an inherent feature of that port.

However, a port will not be unsafe because the vessel has to leave in certain weather conditions provided that the onset of these conditions are predictable and the Master has been given adequate warning by the charterers to leave or, alternatively, been made aware that he should keep a watch for local warnings.

Furthermore, a port only will be safe if the ship has to leave it in bad weather if that port has an adequate weather forecasting system, a sufficient amount of pilots and tugs available, adequate searoom to manoeuvre, and an adequate system for ensuring that there is always searoom and room to manoeuvre.

Save approach / leave : Charterers must nominate a port which a vessel may safely approach and from which a vessel may safely depart. Although charterers are not under an obligation to ensure that the most direct route or any particular route to or from the port is safe, charterers are under an obligation to ensure that the voyage that they order is one that an ordinarily prudent and skillful master may make safely.

Therefore, a port will be unsafe if a vessel cannot approach it without dismantling part of her structure, or if a vessel is forced to discharge some of her cargo on to lighters if her draft is too great to allow her to enter the port.

Avoiding claims against mooring incident - Evidence by the master

When an accident involving an unsafe berth or port occurs, the information required to bring a claim against charterers relates not only to the actual incident resulting from the unsafety of the port, but also to the point at which the voyage planning commenced. To ensure that all the information required is available, the Master should follow the procedures listed below:
  1. Retain a complete record of the communications dealing with the proposes voyage
  2. Retain a copy of the voyage orders in which charterers have given details of ports to which the vessel should proceed, including current draft restrictions and other pertinent information
  3. Retain all charts n use at the time of the incident (no alterations of any kind are allowed)
  4. Retain all rough notes and calculations from the chart room table
  5. Ensure that all shore personnel such as pilots, tug Masters, coastal state officials as well as any other craft in the area are fully identified and a record of their names is kept in the deck log
  6. Keep a note of all the ship's personnel on and off watch who witnessed the incident
  7. Ensure, when writing a report of the circumstances of the accident, that the editions of each publication referred to are noted
  8. Ensure that the bridge and engine room clocks are synchronised to avoid any errors in the recording of events during the incident; and maintain a record of when they were synchronised
  9. Retain all weather forecasts and weather fax charts, and ensure that these are updated as frequently as possible
  10. Retain any other sources of printed information such as course recorder, echo sounder, telegraph recorder printouts
  11. Request the Coast Guard to retain recordings of VHF traffic and radar plots this request is not made promptly, the tapes may be erased)
  12. Ensure that the Master's night orders are acknowledged and retained
  13. Retain all notes and documentation used for passage planning
  14. Ensure that the pilots have been made aware of the vessel's dimensions and handling characteristics, and maintain a record of the person who informed the pilots of the vessel's details
  15. Ensure that detailed records are kept of all events connected with the accidents and/or machinery breakdown
  16. Ensure detailed records are kept of services provided by third parties
  17. Establish whether any similar incidents have occurred in the port, attempting to find out the names of the vessels involved and dates
  18. Ensure that deck, engine, and radio log books as well as bridge and engine movement books (bell books) are available and current
  19. Ensure that a complete photographic record of the events as they unfold is made

In addition to the above information, solicitors representing owners will take detailed statements from all the officers involved and from pilots and tug masters involved in the incident.

Good seamanship and navigation

A port will not be unsafe if any dangers inherent to it may be avoided by good navigation and seamanship. The Master is under a duty to take whatever reasonable steps are necessary to circumvent or mitigate these dangers. However, if the dangers may be overcome only by exercising extraordinary standards of navigation and seamanship, the port will be considered unsafe.

Obligation of the charterer :

Charter-parties often contain terms that a port or berth is "safe”. In such a case, the obligation of the charterers is to nominate a port which at the relevant period of time, the particular ship may approach, use, and depart form without, in the absence of some abnormal occurrence, being exposed to danger which cannot be avoided by good seamanship and navigation.

Where time charterers have the option to nominate a safe port within a certain range, the charterers obligation to nominate a safe port arises at the time when the order is given. At that time, charterers must nominate a port which is prospectively safe for the ship to approach, use, and leave.

If the port nominated later becomes unsafe, charterers are under a further obligation to protect the vessel by issuing new orders for the vessel, often to proceed to another port. However, this obligation does not arise in a case where the port later becomes unsafe due to an unexpected and abnormal danger of which the charterers were unaware.

If charterers nominate a port which, in the Master"s opinion, is unsafe, the Master should immediately contact owners explaining in detail the reasons for his opinion and request further instructions. If the Master reasonably obeys the charterers" orders to proceed to the port and the vessel becomes damaged as a result, charterers will be liable. However, it is important that the Master considers carefully voyage orders given by the charterers before proceeding to a port and follows closely any instructions given by the charterers in relation to that port.

Related info:

Effects of Tugs and other craft alongside chemical tankers

Assessing wind & weather conditions

Ship-shore insulating and earthing for chemical tankers

Ship/Shore Safety Checklist

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