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Making bulk carriers safer - Survival and safety procedure


In November 1997 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted a new Chapter XII on bulk carrier to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) 1974. The new rules cover survivability and structural requirements for bulk carriers of 150 metres and upwards to prevent them from sinking if water enters the ship for any reason. IMO also adopted revised guidelines on enhanced surveys of bulk carriers and a code of practice for safer loading and unloading.

Stronger new ships: Increase the strength of bulkheads and the double bottom to withstand hold-flooded conditions.

Improving cargo handling practices : Conveyor belts (several kilometres long) often overload ships. Huge grabs (up to 36 tons), bulldozers and hydraulic hammers used for unloading can cause structural damage.
Safer Bulk carrier
Fig:Making bulk carriers safer

Existing ships : The bulkhead between holds 1 and 2 and the double bottom of hold 1 must be strengthened to withstand flooding in hold 1 unless loading restrictions are imposed.

Restrictions on carriage of cargoes : Existing bulk carriers which meet the new structural requirements by means of loading restrictions must be marked with a solid equilateral triangle on the hull at midships below the deck line.

Loading instrument : Equipment to be fitted to monitor the stresses during loading and unloading operations.

Enhanced surveys : Enhanced programme of inspections to detect potential structural weakness and areas of corrosion.

Modern bulk carriers, often described as the workhorses of the maritime trade, can be traced back to the 1950s when shipyards began building ships designed specifically for carrying non-packed commodities. Bulk carriers can be identified by the hatches above deck level which give access to the huge cargo holds below.

Particular emphasis has been placed on being ready for early evacuation or abandonment of the vessel. For ships carrying high-density cargoes this is of importance while they are at sea. There may however be cases where abandonment may be the worst option and for bulk carriers as with other ship types this is most probably true in the event of grounding.



In close proximity to shore, and especially in bad weather, life-saving craft launched from the ship are unlikely to save the occupants from the perils of the shoreline and the process of launching the craft probably carries much greater danger than remaining on board. Again, early contact with a Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre is important and the master should not hesitate to broadcast an Urgency or Distress message.

When aground and although the ship may be severely damaged or broken in two, the accommodation blocks in such strandings usually survive long enough for helicopter evacuation, as organized and co-ordinated by the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre, when weather conditions abate.
Bulk carrier during heavy weather
Fig: Bulk carrier during heavy weather

Companies are reminded that the master is the one who decides on whether or not the ship is to be abandoned. This guidance is provided to assist the master in making that decision and is based on the overriding principle that human life is more important than property.

Companies are also reminded that emergency contingency planning forms an integral part of the International Safety Management Code required by SOLAS chapter IX. They should therefore assess the actual risk to their ships with consideration of the information given in these Guidelines and provide in their Safety Management System appropriate advice to assist the master in assessing the action to take in a situation involving flooding of the ship.


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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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