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Cargo holds readinesss, maintenance requirement, dealing stevedore damages & safety aspects

It is of the utmost importance that all the vessel's cargo holds are maintained to the highest possible standard, in order that the vessel is always to be in a condition which enables her to carry any commodity in bulk.

Although it is the Chief Officer's duty to ensure that work is carried out in the cargo holds whenever possible to maintain and improve their condition, it is the Master's overall responsibility to inspect the cargo holds on a regular basis.
The report must be unbiased, and no attempt is to be made to falsely declare holds to be in good condition as this information will frequently be used to fix the vessel on future charters, and may be checked from time to time during visits to the vessel by Company representatives.

In the event that there is access to empty holds for maintenance purposes, and you consider that upgrading work can be carried out, please always inform the Company of your intended actions. Under no circumstances is any upgrading work to be carried out in a hold which contains cargo of any type. Many claims have been made against Owners for cargo damage due to contamination by rust, paint and grease, even though there appeared to be no damage at the time.

In addition, any paint applied prior to loading a cargo must be applied in ample time to allow sufficient drying and hardening periods before the commencement of loading.



Stevedore damage

Stevedore damage must be documented and in accordance with the relevant clauses in the charter party. This is to be carried out within the stated time limits, but preferably as soon as damage is caused / discovered. All parties concerned must be notified immediately, i.e. charterers, stevedores, agents, Managers etc. As much information as is available is to be included in this type of report to assist in any claims which may have to be made against a third party.

In this connection, it is the Master's responsibility to impress upon the Officer on cargo watch, the importance of being diligent with respect to damages caused by stevedores and/or cargo, and to report such damages immediately to the Chief Officer, who is to initiate the appropriate damage reports. It is the Master's responsibility to notify the parties concerned, and to obtain an acknowledgement of receipt of damage report from these parties.


Safety aspects

During routine inspections of cargo holds by the Master and Chief Officer, special attention is to be given to safety aspects such as, conditions of hold ladders, hand rails and platforms. Many injuries have been caused through defects in items such as these, and inevitably delays to the vessel will result from the refusal of dock workers and port officials to enter these spaces due to such defects. Attention must also be given to observation positions around the hatch coamings and hold accesses which are always to be kept in good condition, and free from obstructions.

Due regard must be given at all times to personal safety when carrying out cleaning, maintenance and inspection work within the holds.

The possibility of toxic gases, or lack of oxygen, can occur onboard dry cargo vessels within the cargo holds, especially where the space has been closed for an extended period without ventilation. The following are some of the reasons for a lack of oxygen / dangerous atmosphere:-

1. The generation of rust scale in ballast tanks will remove oxygen from the atmosphere.

2. The space can be filled with poisonous cargo fumes from the likes of:-


3. The hold may contain fumigants
For this reason, any entry into cargo holds must be subjected to a risk assessment and enclosed space entry procedures to be followed.

Access points to cargo holds must be marked as “Enclosed Spaces” and the Enclosed Space Entry Kit used to indicate which spaces have been tested and identified as safe for access.

Enclosed spaces to which access may be required by stevedores during cargo operations must be agreed during the ship / shore safety meeting .

During routine inspections of cargo holds by the Master and Chief Officer, special attention is to be given to safety aspects such as conditions of hold ladders, hand rails and platforms. Many injuries have been caused through defects in items such as these and inevitably delays to the vessel will result from the refusal of dock workers and port officials to enter these spaces due to such defects.

Attention must also be given to observation positions around the hatch coamings and hold accesses which are always to be kept in good condition and free from obstruction.


Personnel protection

All vessels designated for the carriage of dangerous chemicals in bulk must have on board suitable protective equipment and clothing for the protection of crew involved in cargo handling and tank cleaning operations. The Types and quantities of protective equipment as well as additional safety equipment must be in strict compliance with the requirements of IBC/BCH Code.

All ships carrying dangerous cargoes must have on board medical first-aid equipment, including oxygen resuscitation equipment and antidotes for cargo carried in compliance with the recommendations listed in IMO – MFAG (Medical First Aid Guide) and WHO –IMGS (International Medical Guide for Ships).


Inspection for fractures / cracks / corrosion

Particular attention is drawn to the sea staff serving on bulk carriers, and especially on older vessels, for the need to check carefully for signs of any fractures, cracks or corrosion in the plating or frames of the cargo holds. Reference is to be made to the publication Index for a guide issued by Lloyds Register of where to look, and what to check for. Masters must be aware of the contents of these guidelines, and bring them to the notice of the ships staff.



Masters duties

The master will be given voyage orders as part of the charterparty agreement. He will be advised to present his ship at a port within a laycan that may require the ship’s holds to be cleaned to a certain standard. That standard in the voyage instructions or charterparty should be clear and unambiguous. Those instructions should also be within the capabilities of the ship and resources onboard. If the instructions cannot be carried out because of, for example, voyage limitations in time or weather, then the master should inform the owners and charterers so that alternative arrangements can be made. The master has an obligation to deliver the cargo in the same apparent condition as loaded.

The master should not succumb to taking risks to comply with the charterparty instructions if the safety of the ship or personnel is put at risk.

Where there is a requirement to load to a stringent or high standard of cleanliness, masters of ships with generally poor to moderate condition of holds should be particularly alert to report the nature of the hold condition to owners. To upgrade a hold from poor condition to one clean enough to receive a grain cargo requires considerable time and resources. The task should not be underestimated. Otherwise, holds can be failed, cargo contamination claims can arise and charterparty terms can be violated.

The master should:

Related information

Watertight integrity for cargo holds & hatch cover strength requirements for bulk carriers

Maintenance procedure for mechanical steel hatch covers





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Our detail pages illustrated many safety aspects of Bulk carrier

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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.
It is vital to reduce the likelihood of over-stressing the ship's structure and also complying with all essential safety measures for a safe passage at sea. Our detail pages contain various bulk carrier related topics that might be useful for people working on board and those who working ashore in the terminal. For any remarks please Contact us

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