Gaining an Upper hand in Chemical Tanker Operations:
Seagoing ships dedicated for the carriage of Chemicals in bulk are generally termed as ‘Chemical Tankers’. There are three classes of their types for their structural peculiarities and specific categories of the Chemical Cargoes as per the pollution prevention rules (MARPOL). The Chemical cargo handling is governed by those classes and their chemical characteristics & ship’s category as well as the commercial aspects.
The Chemical Tanker operating teams ashore and on board are highly specialised in Marketing, Employing as well as operating the Chemical Tankers. Together they form a group of experts.
‘Gaining and upper hand’ points at controlling the factors that may otherwise degrade professional sea-transportation of bulk chemicals. In plain terms it is about being able to load – stow – carry – deliver Chemical Cargoes on Chemical Tankers without the breach of any contractual and regulatory clauses. Maintaining the Chemical Tanker’s structural integrity and Professionally Navigating, manoeuvring, mooring / unmooring and structurally maintaining the Chemical Tanker add up as the process areas that are not specifically Chemicals related.
Sea Transportation is a highly dynamic process and it is co-ordinated by shore based entities – single or multiple from multiple locations. The physical transportation is under the command of the Master of the ship and his on-board staff being responsible for the tank preparations, loading, stowage, discharging, tank-cleaning thereafter and associated complex operations. All these operations are to be executed as per the laid down international & local regulations, company policies and the industry standards.
The teams ashore and on-board can enrich their knowledge by regular references to authoritative publications by bodies such as the US based CSB (Chemical Safety Board) & IMO (International Maritime Organisation) and the industry publications by OCIMF.
There are local standards of the states such as those by the USCG, AMSA, MCA or the EU depending on the respective countries and states involved. Industry standards are typically laid out by bodies such as OCIMF (Oil Companies International Marine Forum), CDI (Chemical Distribution Institute)
‘Gaining an Upper Hand’ shall also be determined by the level of competencies in the role/s one is playing in the entire process. Listed below are the areas demanding high level of competencies as a minimum:
- Interpretation of the reference charts in IBC (International Code for the Construction and Equipment of Ships Carrying Dangerous Chemicals in Bulk by IMO)
- Competencies in planning & operating as per MARPOL, ship specific ‘P and A manual’ .
- Lining up cargo & ballast lines.
- Efficient use of the pumping system etc.
- Skills in establishing the tank fitness and associated factors.
- Being aware of individual tank history, physical location, structure, structural condition, grades-specific precautions / sensitivities.
- Skills in determining & executing the tank cleaning & preparation methods.
- Maintenance of cargo qualities en-route under varying sea and climatic conditions and the surrounding tanks stowage.
- Familiarity with the usage of Common Chemical tanker vocabulary used for understanding operations for achieving tank fitness and carriage.
- Chemical Safety aspects – awareness, detection, protection, prevention, first response to emergencies, large scale emergency response – this as a ship specific awareness. - Practical competencies in the use of gas detection equipment, different venting methods, guarding against over / under pressurization of the cargo tanks.
- Competencies in the use & maintenance of the chemical cargo pumping equipment such as the deep well pumps – portable pumps etc.
- Competencies in the use & maintenance of the Nitrogen Gas plants or stocks in inerting or padding and other applications.
- Competencies in daily practices on board for preservation of Chemical cargoes.
- Competencies in making and interpreting of Chemical Tanker stowage & distribution
- plans for multiple grades.
- Competencies in special cargo stowage and handling.
- Competencies in common best practices at ratings daily work routines.
- Competencies in seamanship - attending to small spills, hazmat practices, handling portable hoses etc.
- Competencies in applications of test methods.
- Competencies in monitoring of cargo characteristics, parameters and structural integrity... etc. - Competencies in operations with due regard to the Static electricity precautions against its hazards.
- Competencies in accounting for the Chemical specific properties of the cargoes on
- board while responding to the emergencies such as fire, enclosed space rescues, spills etc.
- Competencies in preventing Chemical spills at all stages of the voyage and response.
- Competencies in understanding the objectives and complying with the various government agencies along the trading routes.
- Finally, not the least competencies in grooming the Chemical Tanker trained staff.
With these one will always have an ‘Upper Hand’ in handling the Chemical Tanker Operations!