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Chemical tankers operational matters, safety precautions & emergency preparedness

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. The operation of chemical tankers differs from any other bulk liquid transportation operations, in that on a single voyage a large number of cargoes with different properties, characteristics and inherent hazards may be carried.

Below is our guideline for safe operation onboard seagoing chemical tankers

chemical tanker navigation at sea

Emergency towing-off wires ( fire wires)

The ship should provide towing-off wires, ready for immediate use without adjustment, in case the ship needs to be moved in the event of fire or other emergency.
In most ports, emergency towing-off wires are mandatory when at a berth. Wires should be positioned fore and aft on the offshore side of the ship. They should be in good condition, of adequate strength, and properly secured to the bitts such that full towing loads can be applied. The eyes should be maintained at or about the waterline in a position that tugs can easily reach.

Sufficient slack to allow the tugs to tow effectively should be retained between the bitts and the fairlead, but prevented from running out by a rope yarn or other easily broken means. There are various methods currently in use for rigging emergency towing-off wires, and the arrangement may vary from port to port. A terminal which requires a particular method to be used should advise the ship accordingly.

Ship’s readiness to move

At all times during discharge, loading and ballasting operations, alongside berth or at anchorage, the ship should be ready for departure at short notice in the event of an emergency. The ship’s boilers, main engine, steering gear, mooring equipment and other essential equipment should be kept ready to permit the ship to move from the berth or anchorage at short notice in accordance with terminal and port regulations.

Repairs and other work that may immobilise the ship should not be undertaken at a berth without the prior written agreement of the terminal. It may also be necessary to obtain permission from the local port authority before carrying out such work.

Means of access (gangways or accommodation ladders)

Personnel should only use the designated means of access between ship and shore, or between ships. When a ship is berthed, at anchor or alongside another ship, the means of access should be close to the living accommodation, placed conveniently for supervision, and if possible away from the cargo manifold area. Gangways or other means of access should be properly secured and provided with an effective safety net. Suitable lifesaving equipment such as a lifebuoy should be available near the access point.

During darkness the means of access and the surrounding areas should be adequately illuminated.

Persons who have no legitimate business on board, or who do not possess the master's permission to be there, should be refused access. A crew list should be provided to the terminal security personnel who, in agreement with the master, should restrict access to the jetty or berth to people who can demonstrate legitimate business with the ship.

Personnel on watch on a chemical carrier must ensure that no one who is smoking approaches or boards the ship. Smoking on board must only take place in designated smoking areas. The company policy on drugs and alcohol must be strictly enforced.

Permanent notices should be displayed in conspicuous places on board, indicating where smoking and use of naked lights are prohibited, and where ventilation is necessary prior to entry.

On arrival at a terminal, a chemical tanker should display temporary notices at points of access to the ship, in English and other appropriate languages, to indicate the following:



In addition, when the chemicals being handled present a health hazard, further notices in appropriate languages should be prominently displayed stating:

Local national or port regulations may require additional notices, and such requirements should be observed.

Chemical tanker precautions at berth

Fig:Chemical tanker general safety precautions at berth

Deckhouses and superstructures safety precautions

Regulations require that windows and portholes in the superstructure within a certain distance of the cargo area must not open, and that openings are positioned to minimise the possibility of vapour entry. These design features must not be modified in any way.

All doors (except when being used for access), portholes and other openings should be kept closed during cargo operations. Accommodation doors that have to be kept permanently closed when in port should be marked, but they should not be locked.

Non-essential mechanical ventilation of internal compartments should be stopped, and air conditioning units operated on closed cycle or stopped if there is any possibility of toxic or flammable vapours being drawn into the accommodation

Wind conditions

Most chemical vapours are heavier than air and vapours that may be released during loading, gas-freeing or accidental spills will sink and may concentrate on lower deck areas, especially in conditions of little or no wind. Strong winds may create vapour pockets on the lee side of deckhouses or other structures.

Electrical Storms

During electrical storms in the immediate vicinity of the ship, all cargo operations, gas-freeing and tank cleaning that involve flammable cargoes must be stopped.

Cold weather

During freezing weather conditions precautions must be taken to prevent equipment and systems from freezing. Such equipment and systems include pneumatic valves and control system, fire lines and hydrants, steam driven equipment, cargo heating systems, pressure/vacuum valves, etc.

Special attention must be paid to emergency showers and eye-wash stations. A Risk Assessment should be conducted when it becomes known that the vessel is required to operate in freezing conditions. ICE accretion on deck may affect Stability of the vessel

Related info:

Restriction on using ships communication equipments and other small radio items in cargo area

Effects of Tugs and other craft alongside chemical tankers

Preparations for hot work and safety precautions

Assessing wind & weather conditions

Various chemical cargo handling equipments onboard

Checklist for handling dangerous liquid chemicals in bulk

How to determine the level of a liquid in a chemical tank

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. Posoning hazards & first aid treatment

  6. What is putrefaction process of liquid chemicals ?

  7. Specific gravity,Vapour pressure and boiling point,Electrostatic charging & measuring Viscosity
  8. General precautions onboard chemical tankers

  9. Mooring precautions onboard chemical tankers

  10. Berth precautions onboard chemical tankers

  11. Cold weather countermeasures, avoiding electric storms

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

  13. Handling precautions for carcinogens or cyanide-like substances

  14. Handling precautions for Benzene & Methanol

  15. Securing cargo tank lids and required safety precautions

  16. Means of access (gangways or accommodation ladders) safety precautions

  17. Preparations for hot work and safety precautions

  18. Safe method of gas freeing after a tank cleaning onboard chemical tankers

  19. Precautions against static electricity

  20. Handling precautions for nitrogen from shore station

  21. Cargo tank entry safety precautions

  22. Ship to ship transfer safety precautions

  23. How to deal with chemical fire onboard ?

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

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