Preventing bulk liquid cargo claims

  • Date: 28/10/2011

The latest publication from our loss prevention department focuses on one of the major sources of  cargo-related claims in the tanker sector - cargo contamination.

The “Tanker Contamination Claims Checklist” identifies the main causes of cargo contamination and compiles the key points to consider both on board and shoreside

These essentials are reviewed in seven sections running from the pre-loading phase through to discharge and sampling.

The checklist stresses that loading and discharging of a cargo is a joint operation between the crew of the tanker and the terminal staff.  It is essential that the Chief Officer should establish a good working relationship with the key terminal personnel to reduce the risk of subsequent problems.  Contamination can occur both on board the vessel and in the lines and tanks ashore.

The checklist begins by considering whether the ship is suitable for the cargo or cargoes to be loaded.  Points to be considered range from the condition of cargo tank coatings through to segregation of multiple products.

Preparing the cargo plan is primarily concerned with avoid contamination in tanks, pipelines, pumps and valves and includes issues created by vapours and heat sources.

Checking systems is ensuring that tanks and pipelines are clean, noting that with some cargoes, even water can be a contaminant, ensuring that coatings are sound and fit for purpose, and testing gaskets and glands for leaks.

The importance of regular maintenance and the training of crew so that it is done correctly and safely cannot be understated.  For example, it is essential to ensure beforehand that enclosed spaces are safe to enter - a risk that still is a major cause of deaths at sea.

Recommendations on discharge and loading, and especially with the relationship between ship and terminal focus on ensuring both parties fully understand each other in terms of procedures covering not only normal operations but also emergencies.

A final section on the process of taking and keeping samples helps owners establish defences against claims. A leading firm of cargo surveyors has reported that approximately 40 per cent of alleged shipboard contamination problems are, on investigation, found to be shore related.  When defending cargo contamination claims, often samples are the only hard evidence that the shipowner can present.

The checklist complements the Club’s “Tanker Matters” video published previously which reviews the most frequent causes of tanker cargo claims and how to avoid them.

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