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Water ingress monitoring systems for seagoing bulk carriers


If an alarm is activated, the Master should – without delay - seek to verify the condition by reference to other indicators: These indicators may be provided by such systems as heel indicators, trim indicators and draft gauges.



It should be remembered that the purpose of the investigation is to determine first that whether a real alarm situation exists and second the extent to which the situation has progressed.

The WIM may overtake this activity. For example, if an alarm has activated in one space and this is followed by another alarm, either in the same space or, more onerously in an adjacent space, it is reasonable to conclude that the situation is real.


Structural failure and flooding of bulk carrier
Fig: Structural failure and flooding of bulk carrier

In the case of a bulk carrier, if two holds are flooding the ship almost certainly cannot remain afloat. The Master should act swiftly to protect the lives of those on board. Unless the vessel is in such shoal waters that grounding will occur before immersion of the hull, the crew should be prepared for evacuating the vessel without delay.

EVACUATION ITSELF HOWEVER SHOULD BE A LAST RESORT AND ONLY ON THE DIRECT ORDER OF THE MASTER.

In the event of activation of a “pre-alarm”
  1. Go to emergency stations. This should include preparation of lifesaving appliances in readiness for evacuation but the craft should not be lowered or boarded.
  2. Alert shore rescue co-ordination stations using Urgency or if rapid sinking is detected early, Distress. It is always possible to downgrade an earlier urgency or distress signal if a situation is not as serious as originally anticipated. It is not possible to upgrade a signal that was never sent if a situation is truly serious and escalates rapidly. In the event of a main alarm
  3. Muster (all personnel) at abandon ship stations with the exception of those crew Members engaged in investigation of the alarm and/or keeping systems running.
  4. Upgrade any urgency signal to one of Distress. In the event of a second space alarm activation (either Pre-alarm or Main alarm) –
  5. Ensure all personnel are recalled from investigation and other duties and sent to abandon ship stations. This should include any crew remaining in the engine room or other spaces.

  6. BOATS, LIFERAFTS OR OTHER LIFE-SAVING CRAFT MUST NOT BE LAUNCHED UNLESS THE SPECIFIC ORDER TO DO SO HAS BEEN GIVEN BY THE MASTER.

    The master should only order evacuation of the vessel.
    1. If the vessel is truly sinking. Checks of other indicators should be made quickly e.g. draft gauges, heel indicators, rapid air expulsion from vents serving spaces suspected of flooding, dislodgement of hatch covers, water emerging from spaces where it should not be expected.
    2. The depth of water is greater than the depth of the hull (a beached ship should not be abandoned).
    3. The speed of sinking is such that launching of lifesaving craft must begin immediately in order to reach the water before the ship sinks. Bulk carriers are renowned for sinking fast – particularly if loaded with heavy cargoes such as iron ore.


    Warning

    Seafarers have been lost when bulk carriers have sunk due to having insufficient time to evacuate the vessel. Bulk carriers have, on occasions sunk so fast that even distress signals were not sent out. Due to these reasons, it is important not to become complacent about water ingress alarms.

    If alarms frequently malfunction, the equipment should receive priority attention to rectify the fault. Crew members should not be reticent to muster. If an alarm is false, the crew can be stood down, but if it is genuine and crew are not mustered, there could be insufficient time to do so if flooding progresses rapidly. (Loss of sleep is less serious than loss of life). These are principles that are well established with fire alarms.

    Flooding is potentially more serious than a fire. The most serious fires can threaten the survivability of the ship in terms of buoyancy but flooding is the beginning of sinking. It should therefore be afforded higher importance.



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    Operation of sea going bulk carriers involved numerous hazards . Careful planning and exercising due caution for all critical shipboard matters are important . This site is a quick reference to international shipping community with guidance and information on the loading and discharging of modern bulk carriers so as to remain within the limitations as specified by the classification society.
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