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Bulk carrier cargo hold maintenance procedure

Hold maintenance should be included in the ship’s planned maintenance as part of a formal inspection and defect reporting system. In addition, after every discharge and after each cleaning, holds should be formally inspected by a competent person. This inspection should be recorded, with photographs. This record of the hold status is useful for providing a specification for repair and for dry-dock periods.

Planned maintenance system and hold inspection regime to include:

Hold discharging job - Typical bulk carrier

There have been claims, including some of high value, where the ship and the cargo have been in jeopardy after the hold lights were left on and/or the lighting wiring was in poor condition, leading to fires in the cargo hold or the ladder trunking. All hold lighting circuits should be disarmed prior to loading.

After each cargo hold is cleaned and prepared a formal inspection should be undertaken as detailed above.

Fire fighting systems – if fitted
• fixed hold fire extinguishing systems, such as CO2 lines, should be blown through with compressed air and checked to ensure they are free of dust and debris

Defects should be repaired promptly. All tank or hold damage that affects the hold integrity must be repaired. This includes side and double bottom fuel and ballast tanks.


Hold cleaning, and operating high-pressure water wash guns at sea in a moving ship, is a hazardous operation. All personnel must be trained and clearly advised as to their tasks. A permit to work system should be operating and a ‘tool box’ talk should take place before work begins. These safety concerns should be addressed:
  1. hold cleaning operations to be authorised by master and chief officer. Bridge to be contacted and kept informed
  2. work permit system in place
  3. master should carry out risk assessments in poor weather (enclosed space precautions to be taken in closed hatches)
  4. all personnel to wear correct personal protective equipment (PPE)
  5. all personnel to be aware of the dangers and of their duties
  6. only experienced and trained crew to use high-pressure wash guns
  7. airlines and hoses should be in good condition
  8. if chemicals are used, safety data sheets must be consulted and precautions taken
  9. all equipment to be checked before use and confirmed to be in good condition
  10. all ladders and accesses to be in sound condition
  11. all portable ladders to be properly secured
  12. proper lighting to be used
  13. proper communications to be available between those in the hold, on deck and on the bridge
  14. lifting equipment must be in good condition

Paint systems

The more glossy the paint, the easier it is to clean. Epoxy coatings appear to be the most common paint used for holds. If the holds need painting, sufficient time should be allowed to cure and dry the paint. Unless advised otherwise by manufacturers, seven days should be adequate in a well ventilated hold.

Some cargoes such as processed grains are susceptible to taint from uncured paint. Stains from petcoke are difficult to remove from some types of paints. The coke appears to be ‘burnt’ into the paint and a second high-pressure cleaning with brushing is often required. What you can do:
Internal water ingress

Water ingress into the holds when carrying cargo is a common cause of cargo damage. This can be the result of poor hatch cover integrity, or water ingress back though the bilge and ballast system.

Related information

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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