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Bulk carrier hatch cover maintenance standards


To ensure against the entry of sea water, rain or spray, all weather deck and hull openings (hatches, doors and ramps etc.) should be tightly secured and always maintained in good order.



Battening down hatch covers with manual cleats can be a long job in a large ship with a small crew. Often done at night, in inclement weather, and in circumstances in which the crew may not be as attentive to their duties as they should be, cleats can be left undone, eccentric wheels not turned up, multiple panels incorrectly aligned and cross joint wedges not hammered up. Permanent local damage to gaskets with consequent leakage may also occur during battening down as a result of obstructions such as lashing wires or cargo residues left on hatch coamings or between panels.

When water penetrates a hatch seal, it is collected in a drainage channel and discharged clear of the hatchway. Water may spill over onto the cargo in the hold below if these channels are allowed to become blocked or restricted.

Below article outline issues related to cargo claims and tests to be carrie out on board to detect any leaks- importance of hatch cover maintenance and program that are required to be maintained on board to avoid insurance claims

Side rolling steel hatch cover
Fig: Side rolling steel hatch cover

As per IMO /MSC/Circ.1071 Ship owners and operators are recommended to maintain a record of maintenance, and component replacement, to facilitate statutory surveys by the Administration.

All major repairs should be undertaken only after consultation with the hatch cover manufacturer and with the approval of the Administration. Hatch cover maintenance plans should form part of a ships safety management system as referred to in the ISM Code.

Although the PMS has an ongoing system both for renewals and maintenance regime, it is recommended that vessels maintain a simple checklist as per makers instructions is advisable to be maintained on board and the checklist should cover the below items.

After Each cargo operation

  1. Clean the coaming tops and remove any debris or equipment
  2. Clear drain line holes and valves of debris
  3. Drain valve caps should be attached by chain, but not screwed on. They must be ready in case of a fire in the hold or when carrying out fumigation operations
  4. Grooves and worn landing pads can be built up with welding and ground down, as required, giving a permanent repair
  5. Check and clean the surface of the seals and take special care if the cargo is dusty or gritty
  6. After discharge check hold internals, including ladders, sounding pipes, backetrs and inner coaming surface for mechanical damage
  7. Check hydraulic system for leaks, especially coupling, valve blocks and flexible hoses
  8. Check forrust streaks on the inside of the coaming which would indicate a leaking hatch cover, then take any necessery remedial action. Clean off the old rust streaks and stains.

Routine maintenance - three monthly


9 Monthly or Annual checks

  1. Check qunatity and condition of spares carried on board
  2. The rubber packings and adhesive have a limited shelf life and normally should be date stamped when purchased
  3. Check hydraulic system oil by analysis
  4. Check safety locking devices and hydraulicsystem cutouts

quick acting cleat
Quick acting cleat

Dos and Donts




Related information on ships structural arrangements:

Mechanical steel hatch covers arrangement and watertight integrity onboard a bulk carrier

Ships structural problem because of corrosion & metal fatigues - related countermeasures

Classification Society Establishes Design Standards For Bulk Carriers

High rate of corrosion at sea and preventing methods

Corrosion prevention methods for bulk carrier

Maintenance procedure for mechanical steel hatch covers

Steel hatch cover maintaining watertightness - Classification society guideline

Structural standards & strengthening of bulk carriers

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
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