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Chemical tankers procedure - Rescue from cargo tanks and other enclosed spaces

The frequency with which casualties occur (often involving several deaths) by not observing proper precautions when entering an enclosed space has prompted recent extensive research into why the shipping industry is particularly at risk. This has resulted in new guidelines prepared with help from industry experts and the introduction of courses specifically targeted at raising awareness of the dangers of enclosed spaces and the safe entry into such spaces.

chemical tanker navigation at sea
It must be remembered that "enclosed spaces" relates not only to tanks, cofferdams, chain lockers, storerooms, etc., but also to cargo spaces and adjacent spaces, thus potentially presenting similar dangers. It cannot be emphasised too highly that certain cargoes will deplete oxygen and/or emit toxic gases or fumes. While some of these will be obvious (e.g. certain solid and liquid chemicals), others are less obvious .

Certain cargoes can also cause toxic gases and/or oxygen depletion in adjacent compartments and even on the open decks with deaths being attributed directly to this contaminative affect. Personnel should be aware that recent incidents have involved oxygen depletion in near-empty tanks carrying vegetable oils apparently caused by the temperature of heating coils reaching a sufficiently high level to generate carbon monoxide from the reduced quantity of oil in the tank. Appropriate precautions should be taken when planning to enter such tanks.

It is imperative that regular drills and exercises to practice rescue from enclosed spaces are carried out and that all members of a rescue team know what is expected of them. All members must be trained regarding use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) . Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to protective clothing, helmets, goggles, or other garments or equipment designed to protect the wearer's body from injury or infection. The hazards addressed by protective equipment include physical, electrical, heat, chemicals, biohazards, and airborne particulate matter.)

When personnel are in need of rescue from an enclosed space, the first action must be to raise the alarm. Rescue and resuscitation equipment should already have been prepared. Although speed is often vital in the interest of saving life, rescue operations should not be attempted until the necessary assistance has been obtained. There are many examples of lives having been lost through hasty, ill-prepared rescue attempts.

Whenever it is suspected that an unsafe atmosphere has been a contributory factor to an accident, breathing apparatus and, where practicable, lifelines should be used by persons entering the space. A code of signals should be agreed in advance. The officer in charge of the rescue should remain outside the space, where he can exercise the most effective control.

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