Liquefaction: what you need to know

The shipping industry has been aware of the hazards of liquefaction for over a century. However, it still continues to be a major problem for cargo vessels despite updated procedures and amended legislation.

What is liquefaction?

The process takes place at a molecular level but it has a dramatic impact on the properties of solid cargo. Mining means that granular materials contain moisture in the form of water between particles and it’s the friction between these particles that causes problems.

How the cargo is stored and transported will have an effect on how this moisture behaves. Movement and vibration reduce the space between particles, increasing the pore water pressure and causing the dry cargo to act like a liquid. This is liquefaction.

The Dangers

Liquefied bulk can shift inside the hold and solidify again several times which causes the ship to list. Water can then enter the hull from hatch covers or, in the worst-case scenario, the ship will be unable to cover from a roll.

This is exactly what happened to the Bulk Jupiter when liquefaction caused the vessel to sink off the coast of Vietnam in 2015. The loss of 18 of its 19 crew members prompted the IMO to release a warning about liquefaction for ships carrying cargoes of bauxite.

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. In the last ten years, liquefaction has resulted in the loss of another vessel carrying bauxite, 6 ships carrying nickel ore and 2 more that were carrying clay.

According to the Bulk Carrier Casualty Report from Intercargo, there was a total of 202 lives lost between 2008-2017. Liquefaction or cargo shift was responsible for 101 of them – exactly half. It was the highest single cause of seafarer deaths in the years studied.

UPDATE: All contacts lost with bulk carrier NUR ALLYA since Aug 20 2019, last known position was in Banda Arc N of Ambon, capital of Maluku province, Indonesia.

Bulk carrier with 25 crew and cargo of nickel ore was en route from Weda island, North Maluku, to Morosi, southeast Sulawesi. SAR launched on Aug 25, there was no distress signal. Most probably, it was ore liquefying, causing capsizing and sinking.

The last known location of the Nur Allya was reported to be approximately 44 nautical miles from Namlea, Indonesia, located off the north-east coast of the island of Buru.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Transportation said the ship was underway from the Sepo Port area on the Indonesia island of Halmahera to the Port of Morose in southwest Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Nickel ore has earned the reputation of being perhaps the world’s deadliest cargo because of its liquefaction properties, especially when exposed to wet conditions. Cargo liquefaction can result in a vessel to lose stability and even capsize at a moment’s notice.

The Legislation

Due to the increasing concerns about the dangers of liquefaction, The International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code) was amended in January this year. The recent changes include:

  • A new test procedure for determining the Transportable Moisture Limit (TML) of coal.
  • Specification that the ship operator is responsible for the testing and sampling of TML and moisture content.
  • Strengthening and clarifying the designation of coal as Group A and B cargo in the Individual Coal Schedule.

Hatch Covers

The dangers of liquefaction are increased even further by faulty hatch covers. If a ship is already listing, water ingress can tip the balance and result in sinking.

Unfortunately, poorly maintained or defective hatch covers are widespread in the shipping industry. Over 40% of all P&I claims are due to damaged cargo – worth an estimated $46.9m per year. The 50 million GT, A- rated North of England P&I club says that it continues to experience three to four claims each year valued between US$ 500,000 and US$ 1,000,000 for water-damaged cargoes resulting from hatch cover defects.

The responsibility for hatch covers again lies with the ship’s operator. The ‘Standards for Owners’ Inspections and Maintenance of Bulk Carrier Hatch Covers’ states that: ‘more attention should be paid to hatch cover securing mechanisms and the issue of horizontal loads, especially with regard to maintenance and frequency of inspection.’

Gaskets, seals, retaining channels and resting pads are all subject to wear and tear so monitoring is essential to make sure they’re kept weather tight. Regular checking and maintenance is much cheaper and more effective than major repairs or incidents caused by neglect.

Testing

Ultrasonic testing is the most effective way of making sure your hatches are functioning correctly. It’s much more accurate than water-hose leak detection and chalk testing as it shows when you have the required compression and provides a precise location for any leakages.

In terms of efficiency, ultrasonic testing equipment can be easily stowed and carried on a ship so that you can check your hatch covers regularly. The tests can be carried out by one person and doesn’t rely on the hold being empty so they won’t interrupt your operations.

Hatchtite is even more low-maintenance as it has a runtime of 40 hours and only needs calibrating after five years instead of the usual one. It’s also Type Approved by ABS, fully compliant with IACS Unified Requirement U.R.Z17 and approved by insurers and P&I clubs.

Contact us to find out more about liquefaction and how we can help keep your crews and vessels safe.

Carbon Monoxide and the Legislation for Enclosed Spaces

Legislation is frequently updated to reflect changes in the industry, especially when it comes to enclosed spaces and gas detection. This is one of the leading causes of death at sea yet there are still many misconceptions about operators’ legal responsibilities.

The Legislation

Regulatory bodies are constantly striving to protect seafarers by improving gas detection and measurement onboard ships. Commercial craft must follow the rules set out by SOLAS and IMO or face fines and detentions.

The latest legislation, Regulation XI-1/7, came into force in July 2016. This makes it mandatory for all applicable vessels to carry portable gas detectors onboard and test them regularly:

‘Every ship to which Chapter 1 applies shall carry an appropriate portable atmosphere testing instrument or instruments. As a minimum, these shall be capable to measuring concentrations of oxygen, flammable gases or vapours, hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide.’

It’s these gases that a 4 gas detector is designed to monitor as they represent the biggest threat to crew members on vessels at sea or in port.

The Four Gases

Oxygen is essential for breathing so it always needs checking. In addition to this, it supports combustion so it can be dangerous in potentially hazardous working environments.

In gas detection, ‘Flammable gases or vapours’ is usually shortened to LEL which stands for ‘Lower Explosive Limit’ – the lowest concentration of a gas which can produce fire in the presence of an ignition source. When the LEL is 0%, the atmosphere is free of combustible gas and when it’s 100% the gas is at its lower flammable limit. These percentages will differ from gas to gas.

Exposure to Hydrogen Sulphide will result in rapid unconsciousness and death. It’s a colourless and highly flammable gas that’s produced by decaying organic matter as well as numerous industrial processes. Although it has a characteristic smell of rotten eggs, the gas affects your sense of smell so it’s difficult to detect without equipment.

The final gas of the four, Carbon Monoxide, is the one that’s most frequently overlooked. Although Regulation XI-1/7 states very clearly that it must be monitored, there’s a general misunderstanding in the industry about the legal requirements for testing. Because of this – and the properties of Carbon Monoxide – it’s the gas that leads to most deaths onboard ships.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

It’s produced whenever organic matter is burned, including carbon-based fuels. It displaces oxygen in the blood, depriving the heart, brain and other vital organs of oxygen. As little as 0.4% concentration in the air can cause victims to lose consciousness and suffocate within minutes. Even if the initial exposure is non-fatal, the delayed effects could result in memory loss, depression, psychosis, difficulties with speech and coordination, blindness and a reduced life expectancy.

Carbon Monoxide is odourless, colourless, tasteless and a non-irritant so it’s impossible to detect its presence without monitoring equipment. Although the dangers of poisoning have been known for centuries, it still causes thousands of deaths every year – in many countries, it’s the most common kind of fatal poisoning. In the US alone, it’s responsible for over 20,000 emergency department visits per year.

CO On Board Ship

Carbon Monoxide collects in poorly ventilated areas, the kinds of spaces that are often used for installing new machinery or storage. On a modern vessel with a complex matrix of pipelines running through each of its parts, there will be even more of these areas so seafarers are more exposed to the dangers of Carbon Monoxide than ever before.

The IMO defines enclosed spaces as having limited openings for entry and exit, inadequate ventilation or a design not intended for continuous worker occupancy. These areas include:

• cargo spaces
• double bottoms
• fuel tanks, ballast tanks
• cargo pump-rooms, compressor rooms
• chain lockers
• and any other area that may be oxygen deficient.

If a crew member enters to carry out repairs or cleaning without taking adequate precautions, the results are usually fatal. There have been numerous instances of Carbon Monoxide poisoning in the last few years alone.

Recent Incidents

In April, three seafarers died of asphyxiation after being overcome by exhaust fumes on a drilling rig. This prompted the US Coast Guard to issue a Marine Safety Alert to remind operators about the dangers of confined spaces.

But this was just the latest in a long line of similar incidents. Vessels in the UK, Belgium, Malaysia and The Marshall Islands have all experienced fatalities from confined space entries in recent years.

Effective gas detectors and calibration instruments are essential on all cargo vessels. This equipment should also be as versatile and easy to use as possible so that all crew members are protected.

Gas Detection

One gas detection system doesn’t necessarily suit all ships – you have to make sure that you have the correct equipment for your vessel’s particular needs. SOLAS guidance states:

‘It should be noted that, given a ship’s specific characteristics and operations, additional atmospheric hazards in enclosed spaces may be present that may not be detected by the instrument recommended to be selected by these Guidelines, and in such cases, if known, additional appropriate instruments should be carried.’

Martek Marine is a recognised specialist in marine gas detection with a team of dedicated technical experts that’s renowned within the maritime industry. The world’s major ship operators trust our products to keep their ships and crews safe while also improving their performance and running costs.

We have a range of fixed and portable gas detection equipment that’s designed to cover a variety of different requirements. Our ABC Station will also allow you to perform onboard calibration and produce a tamper-proof certificate that’s acceptable to Class, Port State Control and Oil Majors.

Make sure your crews are ALWAYS protected from the dangers of confined space entry.

Contact us to find out more about gas detection and equipment.

How the quality of your calibration gas impacts performance

Gas detection equipment needs to be operating effectively but keeping vessels fully stocked with calibration gas can be challenging, costly and time-consuming – especially if the gases you’re using are low quality…

The Problem

Calibration gases are unstable and often impure. Reactive gases are so chemically active they will even react with the containers that are used to store them.
The general quality of cylinders within the industry is relatively poor so most calibration gases have very a short shelf-life, often just 6-12 months. Expired calibration gas won’t provide accurate readings and will be potentially dangerous so it needs to be replaced, regardless of how much is left in the container.
Another typical overspend comes from free flow regulators. These use much more gas than you need for bump tests and calibrations so you end up wasting a lot of the gas that you’ve spent valuable time and money on.
All this wastage could mean that approximately 55% of your costs are being squandered. In addition to this, multiple re-stocking deliveries will need to be arranged for each ship. This will incur more freight costs, dangerous goods charges and customs’/agent’s fees.

Procurement

Organising multiple deliveries and arranging schedules also takes up valuable time. The typical procurement process from enquiry to delivery has twelve steps:
1. Ship requisition
2. Buyer interprets information
3. Identification of potential suppliers
4. Raise and send RFQ
5. Suppliers seek clarification on RFQ
6. Buyer seeks clarification from the vessel
7. Ship sends clarification
8. Buyer chases suppliers
9. Review proposals and raise PO
10. Specification of destination port
11. Agree delivery charges
12. Dispatch goods
This is further complicated when using several suppliers as quality control can be an issue – different providers all need to meet the same standards. For a global fleet, arranging a reliable supply of calibration gas can be a troublesome and time-consuming ordeal.
This is time that superintendents could be spending on higher value and more critical areas of the business.

A Higher Quality

Using products with a significantly longer shelf-life can make a great deal of difference to your performance and your costs.
FastCalGas is the first in the world to offer a 27-month manufactured shelf life on all reactive mixtures. It’s able to do this because it has the highest production standards of any calibration gas on the market. It uses advanced materials and a mass spectrometer to analyse and verify the quality of every cylinder. In over 30,000 deliveries, only two defects have ever been reported, a quality yield of over 99.993%.
It’s guaranteed to be compatible with all the leading brands of gas detectors and uses a demand flow regulator so that you’re using only a very small and precise amount of gas with each calibration. Cutting down on this wastage can save you a significant amount of money in resupplies.
You can also purchase calibration gas quickly and easily online from anywhere in the world. Our lean order processing and extensive global supply chain means that 98% of our orders are shipped within 24 hours.

A Simpler Supply Process

You can make further improvements to the performance by using a calibration gas inventory management service to take control of your ordering and supply process.
FastCalGas 1-2-1 service is designed to cut down on carriage and agents’ charges as well as the hidden costs that come from the time spent on administration. It simplifies the process into one order, two years’ supply and one delivery.
We review your gas detectors’ usage to determine your requirements and run on-going checks with vessels, contacting each ship to arrange re-stocking after twenty-one months. All we need to know is what gas detectors your vessels are using, how often they bump/calibrate on average and what flow rate regulators they use. You can simply pass on your inventory or let us contact the ships directly to get the information, we take care of all the rest. There’s no contract, no long-term commitment and no hassle.

Slash your costs and improve your performance with FastCalGas 1-2-1

Contact us to find out more.

FCG 1-2-1 Case Study – K-Line

K-Line chose to change their calibration gas supplies to Martek/FastCalGas because it delivered a number of distinct advantages to our fleet of LNG carriers. The single two year covering order delivers time and cost savings on the significant logistics and administration overheads attributable to normal calibration gas supply arrangements. The extended warranty of the calibration gases means there is no worry of our gases expiring before use. Martek have been professional and responsive from the sales staff to the after sales team. We would recommend their use to other ship owners.

– R Brooks, Superintendent

 

Fleet

9 x LNG Carriers

Previous Calibration Arrangement

Purchasing large refillable cylinders on an ad-hoc basis.

Problem

The administration and logistical challenges of shipping these large cylinders around the world was a time consuming, complicated and a costly process. There was also a significant health and safety risk – the crew were carrying these large cylinders around the vessels to calibrate the fixed gas detection systems.

Solution

We challenged K Line’s thinking about why they were using large gas cylinders. These cylinders are expensive to buy, difficult to transport and – because of the huge volumes they hold – resulted in large amounts of wastage due to gas expiring. By analysing the current inventory on each vessel, we simplified the supply by consolidating many different mixtures into single mixtures and part numbers. Then we arranged a two year single supply to the vessels, freeing the technical and buying functions from having to organise calibration gas.

 

Find out more about our FastCalGas 1-2-1 service here.

Don’t get caught short on calibration gas with FastCalGas 1-2-1

Your vessels always need to have a supply of the correct grade of calibration gas to make sure their gas detectors are operating safely. The costs associated with maintaining this supply can put great pressure on already stretched budgets as well as causing significant headaches for operators.

This can become even more costly and complicated if you receive very short notice that one of your vessels is running short on calibration gas and you’re forced to use a local supplier. As well as interrupting the smooth running of your operations, there are a number of other reasons why this is bad for business.

Limited Options

The availability of quality service providers is always a challenge and when the situation demands an urgent response from a local supplier, you don’t have much leverage or bargaining power.

The standard of the gas or canisters may be poor, their service may be inadequate or unreliable, they may be hugely over-priced – but you’ll still have to use them.

Short Expiry Dates

Calibration gases can be unstable – especially reactive or ‘sticky’ gases. Because they’re so chemically active they can even react with the containers that are used to store them.

This is why gases have a limited shelf life and an expiry date that’s clearly labelled on the outside. Expired calibration gas won’t provide accurate readings and will be potentially dangerous so it needs to be replaced, regardless of how much is left in the container.

Local suppliers will often be given very short notice when supplying ships that are approaching port. That means that they need to have a constant stock – stock that’s usually bought in bulk. The cylinders they provide may have been sitting around for a while with their expiry dates getting closer and closer so you may end up paying over the odds for gas that will soon go out of date.

Multiple Deliveries

Different providers all need to meet the same standards but the price and the level of service will vary from port to port. You’ll need to pay all the associated costs that come with multiple re-stocking deliveries too – freight costs, dangerous goods charges, custom’s and agent’s fees – they all add up.

In addition to this, the relatively poor standard of cylinders in the industry means that calibration gases you buy from local suppliers will probably need to be replaced more regularly.

There’s also the time spent on administration, a hidden cost that’s frequently overlooked.

Time Management

The Chief Officer is responsible for identifying, calibrating, and adjusting all gas measuring instruments onboard and they must make sure that an adequate amount of the correct grade of calibration gas is readily available.

Each detector will have a different schedule and, even with plenty of advance planning, you can spend hours organising the supply of calibration gas for every unit on the fleet. Keeping track of expiry dates, maintenance schedules and calibration tests becomes significantly more complicated when you need to re-supply at short notice.

Add up the time spent on your calibration gas supply week by week, month by month, year by year and then compare it with the annual salary of a chief officer or purchaser. You’ll see how expensive this time can be, especially when they could be concentrating on more valuable areas of your business.

The Simple Solution

Using FastCalGas 1-2-1 will make sure that you never have to face any of these issues. You’ll never run out of calibration gas and you’ll cut down on carriage and agents’ charges as well as the hidden costs that come from the time spent on administration. It simplifies your calibration gas requirements into one order, two years’ supply and one delivery.

We review your usage of calibration gas to determine your requirements and run on-going checks with vessels, contacting each ship to arrange re-stocking. Just pass on the inventory of gas detectors on board your fleet or let us contact the ships directly to get the information and we take care of the rest. Our lean order processing and extensive global supply chain means that we have a four hour turnaround on quotes and 98% of our orders are shipped within 24 hours.

In terms of quality, FastCalGas is the world first in offering a 27-month manufactured shelf life on all reactive mixtures. It has the highest production standards of any calibration gas on the market and uses advanced materials with a mass spectrometer to analyse and verify the quality of every cylinder – in 30,000 deliveries, only two defects have ever been reported, a quality yield of over 99.993%.

Streamline your operations with consistent, high quality calibration gas shipped anywhere in the world.

Contact us to find out more about FastCalGas 1-2-1.

Could Your Ballast Water Treatment Be Killing You?

The dangers of chlorine in ballast water treatment

Without the right equipment, ballast water treatment can be a real headache for operators. As well as the expense, there are numerous other considerations – especially regarding the use of Chlorine, the most common method of treatment.

One of the biggest problems faced by the shipping industry is the spreading of Invasive Aquatic Species from a ship’s ballast water.

Bio-invasion has increased at an alarming rate, such as Golden Mussels, Zebra Mussels, North American Comb Jellyfish, the Cladoceran Water Flea, and the North Pacific Seastar has led to ballast water treatment becoming a hot topic in maritime discussion around the world, leading to an implementation of a ballast water management plan.

Ballast water management plans became key under the IMO’s “International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediments”.

Key to stability, ballast water reduces hull stress, balances off the weight of lost fuel/water, improves maneuverability with sufficient vessel draft and improves crew welfare with reduced vibrations and uncontrolled vessel movements.

Treating Ballast Water

The main types of ballast water treatment technologies available in the market are:

  • Filtration Systems (physical)
  • Chemical Disinfection (oxidizing and non-oxidizing biocides)
  • Ultra-violet treatment
  • Deoxygenation treatment
  • Heat (thermal treatment)
  • Acoustic (cavitation treatment)
  • Electric pulse/pulse plasma systems
  • Magnetic Field Treatment

Many of these will require the fitting and storage of new equipment. This makes it prohibitively expensive as well as disruptive for ships that are already operating. For this reason, chemical treatments are far more widely used.

Biocides can be easily stored onboard ship and don’t require complicated machinery to apply them. Ozone, for example, is a very powerful oxidizing agent that dissolves in water and reacts with other chemicals that are present to kill organisms.

But chemical treatments come with their own set of problems. Although ozone has been used as a disinfectant for over a hundred years, it’s very unstable and toxic to humans, even in small quantities. In addition to this, it’s a harmful pollutant that damages the atmosphere and the environment when ballast water is pumped out into the sea.

With chlorine being widely adopted as part of a ballast water management plan, we’ll take a look at some of the considerations surrounding this popular treatment.

Chlorine

Chlorine is used extensively for disinfecting drinking water but it’s a very effective and common chemical for treating ballast water too. Like ozone, however, it comes with some significant drawbacks.

Because it combines with almost every element, it can form toxins in seawater. In its gas form, it’s so harmful to humans that it was used as a chemical weapon. A painful reminder as to the catastrophic effects of chlorine is one of the most iconic images of the first world war

Soldiers wounded in gas attacks
The use of chlorine as a weapon in WW1 was devastating

This chemical was first used by German forces with the aim to demoralize, injure, and kill entrenched defenders, against whom the indiscriminate and generally very slow-moving or static nature of gas clouds would be most effective.

Major Karl von Zingler described the use of chlorine in an attack as an effective but horrible weapon.

As little as 1000 ppm is fatal after only a few breaths and the effects will be felt in seconds. After you’ve inhaled chlorine, your eyes and skin will become irritated and you’ll find it difficult to breathe with a tightening chest, stinging throat and persistent cough.

Following chlorine exposure, the most common symptoms are:

  • Airway irritation
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Eye irritation
  • Skin irritation

Even if the initial exposure isn’t immediately fatal, chlorine causes fluid build-up in the lungs which can lead to pulmonary edema after a few hours and is a cause of cancer in the long-term.

Contact with liquid chlorine can cause frostbite – in skin and eyes – and there is no antidote.

The effect of exposure are treatable, but this treatment but be fast and effective with hospital care.

Chlorine in Ballast Tanks

Chlorination systems generally apply a dose of about 2 mg/l residual chlorine which is effective for treating ballast tanks and safe for seafarers as long as guidelines are followed correctly.

Some solutions, unfortunately, also use Sodium Hypochlorite with a concentration of up to 10 ppm, which can leave a potentially dangerous the gas residue in the tanks after the water is pumped out.

The main issues come from exactly that, the residue that’s left behind after the water has been pumped out.

Even if a ballast tank appears clear, the sediment or mud can contain dangerous levels of chlorine that’s heavier than air and can’t escape through ventilation.

A 2005 study by the US Navy showed the feasibility of gas bubble formation in sediment and mud. Even with forced ventilation, the gas may not be entirely released due to composition, sediment/mud volume, temperature or a whole range of other conditions.

Chlorine is difficult to detect by sight or smell, so it poses a significant threat to any crew member that enters.

Crews may enter a tank which they believe to be clear of gas – even when the tank has been closed for a long period of time. Changes in the atmosphere or movement can now cause the potentially lethal gas to be released.

Much like the entrenched troops of WW1, without any appropriate gas detection equipment, the fact may not be realised until it’s too late.

Gas Detection

Gas detectors are vital for ballast tanks that have been treated with chlorine and should form part of the ship’s safety management procedures for enclosed and confined spaces.

In addition to protecting your crew, failing to equip your vessel with adequate gas detection equipment carries heavy penalties – and detentions and advisories are on the increase.

The IMO clause in SOLAS REGULATION XI-1/7 states that:

‘2 It should be noted that, given a ship’s specific characteristics and operations, additional atmospheric hazards in enclosed spaces may be present that may not be detected by the instrument recommended to be selected by these Guidelines, and in such cases, if known, additional appropriate instruments should be carried.’

Simply put, if there’s a risk of gas being present, your crew need to be equipped with appropriate equipment to detect these gasses.

Marine 5

As well as testing for the standard four gases (Flammable, H2, CO, and O2), the Marine 5 dual-sensor can also monitor chlorine.

This means that there’s no need to provide individual gas detectors for different gases – the Marine 5 provides multiple gas detection in one portable device.

The range of bespoke gases you can detect with the dual sensor include:
  • Ammonia
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Chlorine
  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Sulphur Dioxide
  • And more

It’s an effective and affordable solution for gas detection, improving safety and efficiency while reducing operating costs. It will also dramatically cut down on calibration gas wastage and allow you to perform on-board bump testing, saving you time and hassle.

The Marine 5 is the perfect gas detector for testing your ballast water tanks for chlorine. Discover its simplicity today and the option for cost-saving onboard calibration.