Are Medical Exams For Seafaring Crew Detailed Enough?

As with any new employer, part of joining a new team can involve completing a medical examination – this is often par for the course in many places.

But it’s long been known that the medical received before joining a ship, is not in-depth enough to truly cover the needs of all staff.

One part of the shipping company’s role is to ensure that all crew are in as safe an environment as possible whilst in their employ.

It’s not until you consider the risks all around the seafaring crew and within the maritime professions that you really start to get a grasp on what an undertaking this is.

One particular area where the medical exams are not meeting the needs of the crew is around heart conditions. The medical exams don’t currently go into enough detail to uncover any underlying heart conditions so would be missing a crucial piece on how much risk that member is under once aboard.

Simply by stepping onto a ship, you are already in a much more dangerous setting – after all, it goes with the territory doesn’t it?

That perspective is often so widely accepted, that it would be easy to be a little blase about the fact you’re merely following procedural protocol while checking over the health of a new member. If the current measures are also falling short where potential heart issues are concerned, it makes it almost impossible to predict with any accuracy whether an underlying heart problem could cause any future incidents or developments.

So how can shipowners ensure that measures to keep their crew safe are sufficient when the risk of physical injury or loss of health is significantly heightened by the setting?

It’s widely accepted that ship crew are naturally exposed to far more risks than their land-loving peers. Besides the dangers of the ship itself, there are also additional factors such as:

  • Sudden climate change exposure
  • Being exposed to epidemic diseases, both on the ship and in port environments
  • Being exposed to devices with sudden electromagnetic, vibration or sound radiation
  • Heightened stress, physical and psychological strain through the nature of the work
  • Being in countries with low-quality healthcare
  • Logistics of being at sea causing delays in medical assistance.

Other implications to be borne in mind by ships are those involved in ensuring that the staff can get the vital help that they need should health issues crop up while at sea.

According to international regulation set out in the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006), it is expected that:

 “seafarers must receive equal quality of care as the population onshore” 

When we look at the challenges of the environment, in the case of injury or illness this can pose many a logistical problem.

  • Transporting the patient to the hospital from the ship
  • Admission to hospital in a multitude of countries
  • Accessing medicines and ensuring they are administered correctly
  • Transporting the patient to their home country
  • Provision of salary and sickness benefits during their illness and recovery.

From the shipowners perspective, they will also need to factor in additional costs such as production loss while the patient is recovering, the cost of replacing the worker’s output, the potential increase to their insurance premium as well as any time spent on managing the repatriation of the patient.

Add all of that up and what it equals is expensive. 

The shipping industry is also on a tight turnaround. Time is most definitely money in this business, with any slippage potentially costing a fortune.

So what’s the point here?

If you’re in the shipping world – none of that is news to you. So with that in mind, it’s easy to see why any crew member with potential illness, particularly a heart-based one, may be a little loose with their version of the truth when filling in their medical forms.

Disclosing that you may be a heightened risk to a shipowner could easily feel like you’re risking the job itself, so many crew members keep vital medical information to themselves.

One such incident happened in March 2018, when the master of the Sage Amazon bulk carrier suffered a cardiac event while standing on the access ladder above the cargo hold.

Their ship was just about to receive a cargo of cement so the crew been down into the hold to sweep and dry the top of the tank. The master and chief officer went to verify that the work had been done with the chief officer using the port ladder and the master using the starboard ladder.

Literally minutes later, a muffled sound was heard, and the master was seen lying unconscious on the main deck. Help was called for immediately via a portable radio by the Chief Officer and the ICE advisor on-board called the harbourmaster for guidance and requested a boat to bring the master ashore. 

A call to 911 was made and the master’s vital signs were shared with the 911 operator – it was confirmed at this point that the vessel was not carrying an automated external defibrillator. Under guidance, the crew administered medical oxygen and shared the details of the head injury, before handing over to the Coast Guard, who then took the call to dispatch the resources needed to carry out the medical evacuation.

At this point, the master was still breathing, but his forehead was reporting to be cold – 

CPR began but it was reported that the master no longer had a pulse and that the colour of his skin had changed.

Over three hours later, the fast rescue craft had managed to reach the master and their AED went through eight diagnosis cycles but did not initiate defibrillation as the vital signs were not being found.

CPR was resumed alongside remote medical counselling, but shortly afterwards the physician recommended the CPR stop due to the lack of response to CPR, and no presence of vital signs, pronouncing the shipmaster dead.

The post mortem was conducted and showed that the master had a deep laceration on his scalp. His cause of death was initially thought to be the severe cranial trauma, causing the haemorrhage and resulting in the cardiopulmonary arrest. Upon further investigation during the autopsy, it was revealed that the master had, in fact, died of acute myocardial infarction, a heart attack. 

And that although the head injuries were serious, his skull and brain were intact with no presence of cerebral haemorrhage. It transpired that the master had an enlarged heart and that this was not the first incident of the myocardial infarction.

The toxicological analysis showed that the master was taking metformin, a drug used to treat type two diabetes. The master had heart and arterial conditions and had been taking 12 different types of medication to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, renal dysfunction, and heart arrhythmia.

But it was unknown as to whether a physician had prescribed these and family and crew members were totally unaware that any of his medication was being taken.

Despite all of this, the master had undergone a medical examination, a year before, when the medical practitioner, conducting the exam certified him to be fit for duty at sea.

On further exploration, it was revealed that the master had answered ‘no’ to the following questions…

  • Have you ever been hospitalised?
  • Are you aware that you have any medical problems, diseases or illnesses?
  • Are you taking any non-prescription or prescription medications? 
  • Do you have high blood pressure? 
  • Do you have heart or vascular disease?

The master had declared with his signature, that he had fully disclosed all of his medical history and that all of his information was true to the best of his knowledge.

The form did not allow for the master’s medical records to be released for review by a medical practitioner. in this, in this instance, the master had stretched the truth, somewhat.

In this instance, the medical practitioner conducting his initial medical exam had been extremely thorough, and the issue was being held back. 

This most definitely isn’t an isolated case.

One unfortunate piece of this though is that there wasn’t an AED on-board. You can never be certain if an AED would have saved the masters life, but statistics don’t lie and AEDs save hundreds of lives every day through being administered in those crucial first few minutes of cardiac arrest. 

There is a 70% chance of survival if defibrillation is administered within 3 minutes of cardiac arrest

Most cardiac arrests are sudden – they strike without warning. Whether your crew members have disclosed a cardiac illness or not, the fact remains that AEDs save lives within minutes. 

The only thing proven to improve the chance of survival after cardiac arrest is with an electric shock to the heart with an AED to restore a normal heart rhythm. The survival rate drops by 10% with every passing minute.

In the case of this master, even with the fast response crew attending, the medical team with their AED took over 3 hours to reach him to deliver that vital electric shock, which seriously reduced his chances of survival.

That wasn’t the fault of the medical team. At sea, it’s virtually impossible for any emergency response unit to reach your vessel in that time, so it’s up to you to have the right equipment on-board to save a life when necessary.

Lifeforce AED is the only marine approved device for this job. Tested to IP55 rating and rugged military standards, the simple to use device can be operated by anyone in an emergency. Spoken instructions guide the user to aid the patient at each step, including a metronome for CPR cycles.

The device will automatically analyse the patient and determine if a shock is required (i.e. if the problem is sudden cardiac arrest). If this is the case, the rescuer need only press one button to deliver a shock. If no shock is required, it is impossible to deliver one – so the device is incredibly safe to use.

If you’d like more information on the Lifeforce AED and ensuring you have the best equipment on-board to save the lives of your crew, get in touch here.

Industry To Achieve Zero Emissions By 2030

It’s looking like the maritime sector really means business, where tackling emissions and reducing CO2, are concerned and they’re putting their money where their mouth is – literally.

We’re already in the run-up to the enforcement of Sulpher 2020 and September saw the launch of another initiative. Led by ports, oil and shipping companies in the industry, for the first time ever on this scale, this one includes the banks too.

The aim of the initiative is for ships on the high seas and their marine fuels to have zero carbon emissions by 2030. These are no small feats – many shipping companies are currently feeling the pressure to meet the criteria of the impending Sulpher 2020 legislation and the effects of the new initiative look to be more challenging.

Why Now?

The global shipping industry is responsible for 90% of the volume of world trade – without it, it would not be possible to import or export most of our manufactured goods and food.  This contributes around 2.2% to global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and the long term goal of the U.N.’s International Maritime Organization (IMO), is that by 2050 greenhouse gas emissions will be half of what they were in 2008.

If you factor in that the ongoing growth of the global seaborne trade between 2018 and 2023 was predicted to be almost 4% a year, it highlights that this isn’t just a quick fix. As our food trade grows globally, so will the shipping emissions and obviously food is only a part of the picture.

Addressing climate change is a need that can no longer be overlooked. By creating such a united front on reducing emissions – one of the largest factors in global warming – this initiative is going to make it impossible for any shipping company to hide from.

Who’s Involved?

It’s blatantly clear that change is definitely expected across the globe and this drive is a clear indicator that the approach as a whole needs to move with the times. With sixty commercial groups committing to the new “Getting to Zero Coalition” this framework is set to have a much deeper impact than the fuel change imposition of Sulpher 2020.

Some of the key players involved in the coalition are…

  • Owners of the world’s largest container shipping line – A.P. Moller Maersk (MAERSKb.CO),
  • International commodity giants Cargill, COFCO International and Trafigura
  • Mining group Anglo American (AAL.L
  • Banks such as Citigroup (C.N), ABN AMRO (ABNd.AS) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PA

The scale of the initiative is huge with the endorsement of the governments of Belgium, France, Denmark, Palau, Chile, Morocco, South Korea, Ireland, Britain, Sweden and New Zealand as well as leading ports being involved such as Rotterdam and Antwerp.

This is the first time that the financiers have involved themselves in initiatives of this type though. Many banks and financial institutions are backing Getting to Zero, so if you’re thinking you can get away with not playing ball, be warned – any ship financing plans you may have are about to become as buoyant as a tanker in dry dock.

The Challenges…

Whilst the initiative is targeting a 2050 deadline, the coalition is driving for an infrastructure to be created to help vessels and fuels to be ready by 2030. The fact that there isn’t a quick solution here is widely recognised with one member of the coalition, Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) saying:

“Decarbonizing maritime shipping is a huge task with no simple answer, but it has to be done” 

“We intend to be part of the long-term, zero-carbon, solution by seeking out the most feasible technologies that can work at a global scale. Starting now is essential because ships built today will stay on the water for decades.” 

A.P. Moller Maersk’s chief executive Soren Skou also suggested that as well as cleaning the fuels up, a shift in propulsion technologies was required too “which implies close collaboration from all parties… the coalition launched today is a crucial vehicle to make this collaboration happen”. 

Potential Solutions

With part of the emphasis being on new technology, vessels being built will be expected to meet new criteria – the IMO has adopted mandatory rules on boosting fuel efficiency to cut down CO2 emissions from ship engines but their plan on how to do this isn’t expected until 2023. 

Allowing for the life expectancy of a ship, introducing more deep-sea zero-emission vessels (ZEVs) between now and 2030 is part of the impetus, as any new vessel put into operation in 2030 will be on the water for at least another 15 years.

One proposed solution is to increase the number of electric vessels, though this can only be entertained for shorter journeys. Electric ferries are already in use extensively in Norway, Denmark and Sweden and despite the growth in deploying electric ferries being exponential, the size of batteries needed for longer distances means .a different solution is needed for the deep-sea vessels.

Fuel is next on the agenda as the low tech nature of big ships means they can run on the dredge that other modern engines such as cars can’t cope with. It’s known that they often use the lowest quality fuel dismissed by more refined products, so other fuel options are being explored.

One such solution could be biomass-derived fuels – biofuel or biogas. These hydrogen and synthetic non-carbon fuels, such as ammonia, are either derived from renewable energy or from a combination of fossil fuels combined with CCS (carbon capture & storage). 

These fuels have the advantage of being able to burn on existing combustion engines but the challenge here is mainly going to be sourcing enough of it to meet demand. It needs to be produced in parallel with food production and with other industries increasing their use of biofuel in their own eco transition, there’s going to be serious competition which the shipping industry might not be ready for.

Responsible Lending…

Where this initiative differs is the inherent financial implications. They say money makes the world go round and in this instance, it couldn’t be truer as the whole world comes crashing to a halt without shipping.

When you consider the level of finance and investment in the shipping industry, that’s a whole heap of big wallets. Add to that, the growing interest in where they are investing and the global impact of their commercial strategy, they are under increasing pressure to behave responsibly.

Back in June, a separate initiative was launched, called the Poseidon Principles which will overhaul how banks make their decisions when providing loans to shipping companies.  For the first time ever, their lending process will take into account the companies measures in place to cut their CO2 emissions. This can be facilitated using IMO benchmarks as the gauge to measure standards against as part of their decision making.

Under the Poseidon Principles, signatories have committed to publishing their portfolios annually to include the carbon intensity of their portfolios. The banks will then measure this against a set of trajectories to mark how aligned or misaligned their vessels are against the IMO targets.

Each time an old vessel or new build requires financing, this is often for significant periods ie 10 or 12 years. The impact of the vessel across that timescale will now be assessed, including their carbon footprint allowing banks to finance the more ‘green’ vessels.

Eleven banks, whose combined portfolios account for 20% to 25% of global shipping loans signed up for the agreement and many others are seriously paying attention too. 

It Starts With A Clear Picture…

As you’ve now gathered, dirty emissions are a dirty word. The impact of air pollution from your ships is now going to be under such close scrutiny, that any gaps in your processes are going to be heavily frowned upon. Taking control of a reliable emissions reporting process is the absolute minimum in the journey ahead of us and the Evolution EMS™ can help you with this.

The Evolution EMS™ sends real-time emissions data direct to your desktop so your reporting is accurate and timely and already incorporates all regulatory requirements ensuring your reporting is fully compliant. It’s also future proof so that any future regulatory changes can be incorporated too via plug and play functionality.  

Let’s be realistic – if your reporting process looks remotely clouded, you’re going to attract much more scrutiny from the authorities as well as potentially risk any future lending needs you may have. 

Ask our team how you can use  Evolution EMS™ to easily take control of your emissions reporting now…

A Guide To 2020 And Tank Cleaning

With only a few months before Sulpher 2020 kicks in, it’s time to make sure you know what you are doing regarding your emissions.

The new legislation is asserting that all ship fuel emissions be under 0.5% sulphur, but as we all know this isn’t a simple matter of switching from one fuel to another.

Until now, many of the high sulphur fuel oils that have been predominantly used, have a tendency to stick to the inside of the fuel tanks and pipelines causing sludge. Before you can go anywhere near changing your fuel to a compliant one, you will need to give your tanks and pipelines a thorough cleaning to ensure the new lower sulphur fuel is not contaminated in any way.

Whilst not a mandatory requirement, IMO’s MEPC 73 in October 2018 agreed that administrations should encourage ships flying their flag to develop their own Ship Implementation Plans (SIPs) in readiness for Sulpher 2020.

The various aspects you will need to consider within the implementation of your fuel switch include:

  • A full risk assessment surrounding your process
  • A mitigation plan considering the impact of the new fuels
  • Assess and execute all fuel oil system modifications
  • Any potential modifications required for your fuel oil system
  • Time allocation for tank cleaning
  • Fuel oil capacity
  • Segregation capability
  • Procurement of compliant fuel
  • Fuel changeover plan.

And not forgetting the documentation of this transition of course. Although none of these processes are new to us, the expectation of a high level of cooperation with the authorities during this transition is possibly one piece of this process we daren’t ignore.

So, why do we need to clean our tanks now?

Many ships for quite a while have been using high viscosity high sulphur fuel oil, mainly due to the lower costs of these fuels. The downside to these are that they really stick to the inside of fuel tanks and form layers of semi-solid sediments and asphaltenic sludge

It, therefore, makes sense that many ship operators are now needing to clean their fuel oil tanks to rid them of these residues before putting compliant fuel into them ready for Sulpher 2020.

One of the risks of not cleaning your tanks before loading them with the new fuel is that there is a strong possibility that the residues and build-ups could dissolve and dislodge themselves into the tanks causing operational issues with filters and purifiers. In the worst-case scenario, you may be looking at fuel starvation and loss of power.

When it comes to cleaning your tanks, this is what you will need to take into account…

Manual Tank Cleaning Whilst In Dry Dock

The length of time it takes to clean your tank will vary but can usually be done in two to four days per tank.

You will also need to clean all of the pipework in the fuel oil service system by flushing it all through – this can take one to two weeks in total.

It is worth noting that a ship which has had all of its fuel oil tanks, as well as fuel system cleaned and flushed thoroughly, can start using compliant fuels straight away and will be instantly compliant.

If the fuel system hasn’t been flushed through and you have only cleaned the tanks, this can take two to five days to flush through the pipework before the new fuel can be assumed to be fully compliant with the sulphur cap.

Manual Tank Cleaning Whilst In Service

If you are cleaning your tanks manually while still in service, the risk assessment and safety measures are absolutely vital as per IMO resolution A.1050(27) on Revised Recommendations for entering enclosed spaces aboard ships.

We’ll cover this in more detail below, but this is where gas monitors such as our MGC Simple+ are crucial.

The time required to clean your tank manually will vary depending on how large your tank is and who is cleaning it.

If the cleaning is being done by the existing crew, it often takes around four days per tank, usually closer to a week for an average size tank.

If you are employing a riding crew purely to clean the tank, they can minimise the cleaning time frame substantially taking only two to four days by working in shifts.

Obviously, the tanks will need to be empty before they can be cleaned.

While the tank is empty and clean, this is a good time to check what state it is in. Use this opportunity to inspect heating coils, conduct any pressure tests needed and repair anything which requires it while it is all accessible.

If you are flushing the pipework in the oil fuel oil service system at this point, this will usually take another one to two days.

You must dispose of any residues from the tank cleaning correctly and responsibly – retain it onboard or dispose of it in reception facilities.

Using Additives To Clean Fuel Tanks

If you are looking to avoid the manual cleaning process altogether, you can clean your tanks in service using specialised additives. This is where you can add a specialist additive to fuel to gradually clean the sediments and asphaltenic sludge from high HSFO tanks.

This will need to be done in doses over a period of time before you put the first load of 0.5% fuel in and you’ll need to bear in mind that this process can often take over 6 months to be fully effective.

The Dangers Of Entering Enclosed Spaces

In terms of safety, one of your biggest considerations throughout this process needs to be the monitoring of gas when entering enclosed spaces onboard. Zone zero atmospheres require specialist gas detectors and our MGC Simple+ is designed specifically for this job. instantly guaranteeing compliance and reducing risk.

As the toughest portable gas detector on the planet, it is capable of operating in all situations. It will reliably work in Zone 0 (flammable) and completely inert (oxygen-free) environments.

The other specific benefits of MGC Simple+ are:

  • NO CALIBRATION – unrivalled cutting-edge infrared sensor technology, meaning it’s immune to sensor poisoning.
  • NO CHARGING – the only portable gas detector designed with 3 years of battery life, including up to 90 seconds of alarm each day so you never need to charge the detector.
  • NO COSTS – absolutely no maintenance, servicing or sensor replacement.
  • NO MAINTENANCE – Coming with a lifetime warranty, you can unbox and you’re good to go.
  • NO LIMITS – The most robust and advanced portable gas detector on the planet. With an IP68 rating, it’s safe from the finest dust and can even be submerged under 1.5m underwater for 30 minutes.
  • NO OXYGEN – It will even work in completely inert (oxygen-free) and Zone 0 (flammable) environments. Always charged, and always calibrated it is ready to go anywhere at any time.
  • NO CONFUSION – Completely customisable, the sensor and alarm levels can be adjusted to suit the role required and each device can be digitally assigned to a crew member or department. Device reminders can be configured to alert crew when a bump test is required as per company standards.

One of the many challenges of running a ship is keeping on top of executing and documenting all processes, risk assessments and safety measures. Sadly, many injuries and fatalities onboard are often administrative oversight such as equipment checks being overlooked.

Incorporating totally reliable measures onboard such as MGC Simple+ is peace of mind that your crew are both safe and compliant instantly. Get in touch if you’d like to know more about keeping your crew safe in the ‘big clean’ over the next few months.

Is A Soft Start For Sulpher 2020 On The Horizon?

Any vehicle which uses fuel these days comes under close scrutiny and ships are no exception.

The effects of shipping on the environment were particularly highlighted to the general public when the United Nations publicly excluded it from its 2015 Paris agreement. With the world media as well as many conservational bodies flying the eco flag, the approaching Sulpher 2020 deadline is only going to rocket the activity around this – we’re not quite sure how compliant that rocket fuel will be!

It has long been touted that the marine industry has to catch up with its land-based peers in terms of emission control, but we all know it isn’t that simple.

Any crew will know that one fly in the ‘Sulpher ointment’ is that there is also a need to comply with new MARPOL regulations intended to preserve the marine environment. To comply with these regulations and minimise the impact on marine wildlife through oil spillages, dumping or accidental discharge of harmful substances, it restricts ships from operating their engines in the most efficient way.

So they are expected to reduce their emissions to meet the Sulpher 2020 regulations of their fuel-burning less than 0.5% sulphur content, whilst unavoidably needing to burn more fuel through more carefully executed voyages to comply with MARPOL.

It could easily feel like ships are being handed a double-edged sword – or an impossible task.

A further, and much larger, complication is the availability and cost of compliant fuel – the onus has been placed on ships to comply but the ripple effect will be significant. The knock-on effect to the supply chain costs alone cannot be ignored.

Indonesia has already announced that within it’s coastal waters, its flag-state ships will still be allowed to use 3.5% sulphur fuel after 1 January, due to the costs and availability of compliant fuel and the inherent risk of a price increase for consumer goods. It has given no definite deadline to when it will comply, simply using ‘until the cost and availability of compliant fuel improves’ as it’s caveat.

Unsurprisingly, other countries from the 91 signatories of the regulation are also considering their options potentially asking for a ‘soft start’ to Sulpher 2020. If allowed, this won’t be the first time that a blind eye has been turned to non-compliance of new regulations. Rigid implementation of the VGM container weighing edict in 2016 posed such a risk of chaos in the ports, that for weeks after its introduction many authorities overlooked the initial confusion.

Realistically, for a smooth switchover to the compliant fuel in readiness for IMO 2020, shipowners will need to start this around two months beforehand as it isn’t simply a matter of switching fuels. Tanks will need to be scrubbed as well as all pipework cleaned and flushed thoroughly to remove any residues of the heavy fuel oil (HFO) which could contaminate the compliant fuel.

Tanks will need to be drained to do this so it is estimated that a good two weeks will need to be allowed for this process. Extrapolate this out for your fleet and that’s quite an operation before you address the fact that compliant fuel isn’t readily available or remotely cost-effective.

An additional consideration to consider is the difference around the world in sulphur variations. Even if all fuel was Sulpher compliant, ship engines cannot cope with mixing fuels from different providers all over the world. The ‘sludge’ a vessel would create by mixing one fuel with a 0.47% sulphur content for instance, with a 0.43% is a significant problem on its own!

Despite these known challenges, there are further obstacles being placed across the globe to deter non-compliance of Sulpher, one being that certain geographic zones are taxing you on your emissions. Emissions trading would get a whole lot busier if the shipping industry adopted this practice too!

But if nothing else, all of these issues show that there is a strong emphasis on the reporting of the emissions with it no longer being acceptable to ignore the impact of your vessel. You now need to be far more in control of how your reporting is done so preparing for the imminent roll-out of these regulations is critical.

One of the biggest hurdles to all of this, however, is accurate data recording. Many vessels, particularly older ones, are relying on outdated fuel consumption models to report their emissions data. Not only is this time consuming for the crew, but it is also often inaccurate.

In their quest to comply with the reporting of emissions requirement of ISO 14001, many modern shipping companies are using our Evolution EMS™ emissions monitoring system to monitor their air emissions which is currently considered best practice.

Being the world’s first Type Approved (LR & DNV) on-board NOx, SOx & CO2 emissions monitoring system, Evolution EMS™ provides a range of operational advantages for ship owners, managers and operators.

The reporting activity alone which will follow on from Sulpher 2020 is going to keep ship operators busy but having this done for you automatically and recorded accurately is a powerful starting point.

Once you have an accurate picture of your emissions, you know how close you are to Sulpher 2020 compliance. This also gives you a strong foundation to bargain with if you’re not yet compliant, being able to work out a realistic transition plan with authorities.

Besides sending the message that you are taking your emissions seriously, other advantages to using Evolution EMS™ onboard include:

  • Environmental best practice
  • Cost savings & increased profit
  • Real-time emissions data direct to your desktop
  • Freedom & flexibility
  • Regulation compliance

We also understand the scale of new regulations, and with the global shift towards accountability and sustainability, there’s a strong chance that there’s far more legislative change ahead. That’s why the Evolution EMS™ system has also been designed to be ‘future proof’ against future regulations. By allowing simple ‘plug and play’ analyser inputs, it ensures no additional ship emissions reporting system will ever need to be purchased.

If you’d like advice or further information on Evolution EMS™ for your vessels, or to explore how any of our range can help your safety and regulatory compliance, we’re always here to help so get in touch

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.

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.

10 ways FastCalGas 121 can reduce costs and save you hours in labour intensive logistics

Calibration gases are essential for making sure gas detection equipment is performing effectively. But keeping vessels fully stocked with up-to-date calibration gases can be challenging, costly and time consuming, especially when managing multiple types of vessels, all with different gas requirements, operating around the word.

FastCalGas 121 is a fleet-wide, fully managed service that removes the logistical challenges of calibration gas management and ensures you’ll never get caught out and run the risk of having to buy expensive, low quality gas from unknown overseas suppliers at short notice. All you need to do is tell us what equipment you have on board. We’ll calculate exactly how much gas each vessel needs and send a 2-year supply directly to its next convenient port of call.

Here are ten ways FastCalGas 121 can help you streamline your calibration gas supply and administration:

  1. Never run out

When a vessel suddenly informs you that it’s run out of calibration gas, you’ll be forced to use a local supplier. This means that the gas will most likely be poor quality with a short shelf-life. In addition to this, the costs of delivery, agent, import and launch boat fees will result in you paying way over the odds-on shipping just one or two bottles.

This can all be avoided by using FastCalGas. We can calculate exactly how much gas you’ll need over the next 24 months then send it directly to the vessel. It simplifies the process into one order, two years’ supply and one delivery.

  1. Fewer administration charges

Multiple re-stocking deliveries for each ship means more freight costs, more dangerous goods charges and higher customs’/agent’s fees.

Our 1-2-1 service is designed to cut down on these charges as well as the hidden costs that come from the time spent on administration and logistics. Reducing your administration charges by up to 50%.

  1. Stress free
    Organising a reliable supply of calibration gas for a global fleet can prove troublesome and time-consuming – time that superintendents could be spending in higher value and more critical areas of the business.

Using a managed service removes all this stress from the process. We review your vessels gas detectors to determine your requirements and run on-going checks with vessels to ensure they have an adequate supply on board. In the unlikely event of your supply running low because we’ve under-calculated your usage, we’ll arrange for replacements to be sent directly to the vessel.

  1. Less wastage

Because of the instability and impurity of the gases used and the relatively poor quality of cylinders within the industry, most calibration gases have a short shelf-life of just 6-12 months. This means that gases need to be replaced more regularly – regardless of how much remains in the cylinder.

Using products of a higher quality and a significantly longer shelf-life can therefore make a great deal of difference.

  1. Longer shelf Life

FastCalGas has a 27-month manufactured shelf life on all reactive mixtures – a world first. It has the highest gas 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%.

  1. Shipped across the globe

Wherever in the world your vessels operate, our FastCalGas 121 team have access to a global delivery network of 8 international hubs, taking away the added pressure of finding local suppliers and managing complicated overseas logistics yourself.  Our lean order processing and extensive global supply chain means that 98% of our orders are shipped within 24 hours.

  1. Compatibility
    This can be a headache when using multiple suppliers. Quality control will also be an issue as different suppliers will all need to meet the same standards. FastCalGas is guaranteed to be compatible with all the leading brands of gas detectors and, because everything is coming from one supplier, you can be sure that the quality will always be consistent.
  2. Easy to sign up
    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.
  3. Flexibility

We don’t need to ship all your calibration gas in one delivery and one location for every vessel. We can ship a single vessel’s two-year supply to meet it at the next convenient port so the agent doesn’t have to pay high storage fees for long periods.

The cost can be spread over twenty-four months or you can make savings with a discounted price that’s paid with the initial delivery of gas to each ship. There may also be credit and invoice options available depending on your budget and your requirements – we can tailor our service to suit your needs.

  1. Superior service

Martek has over 100 years of gas detection experience and our customer service is renowned in the maritime industry. You can expect technical experts with a full set of language skills who are proficient in organising the handling of dangerous cargo.

With an industry leading product quality, worldwide distribution network, and expert team, FastCalGas 121 is your answer to pain free calibration gas supply for your entire fleet, allowing you to free up your time and concentrate on other tasks.

Contact us today to find out how FastCalGas 121 can offer you fleet-wide, risk free calibration gas supply that’s on time, every time.

The risk of Legionella at sea

Managing the water supply on ships can be troublesome. If you don’t monitor it correctly, it will have serious effects on both your crew and your operations.

Poorly maintained water can easily result in contamination from bacteria and pathogens leading to outbreaks of noroviruses, Salmonella, E-Coli and Legionnaire’s disease.

Here we look at some of the dangers of Legionella and how you can avoid them.

What is Legionella?

Legionella is a type of bacteria that can cause diseases such as Pontiac Fever, Lochgoilhead Fever and, the most serious, Legionnaire’s Disease.

The bacteria gets into your lungs when you breathe in aerosols – small droplets of water suspended in the air. If not treated with antibiotics, it begins to affect the heart, brain, and other organs. The drop in blood pressure can also lead to septic shock as well as lung and kidney failure.

Where is Legionella found?

The bacteria is common in natural water sources like rivers, lakes and reservoirs but usually in low quantities. It becomes a major problem in purpose-built water systems where conditions are right for it to thrive.

It’s pretty resilient to low temperatures but prefers a temperature between 20-50 °C. Showers, cleaning systems, hot and cold water systems, air conditioning systems and drinking water systems all provide the right environment for contamination.

If these systems are poorly maintained, the bacteria will grow and increase the risk of Legionnaires’ disease.

What is Legionnaire’s Disease?

This is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia. The symptoms are similar to the flu – you’ll have a high temperature with fever and chills, muscle pain and tiredness, a cough, and probably a headache. You might also feel confused and experience vomiting or diarrhea.

Everyone is open to infection. However, the risk increases even further if you are over 45 years old, smoke or drink heavily, have an impaired immune system or a pre-existing condition like diabetes, heart disease or respiratory issues.

Given that a 2018 study found that 46% of UK officers (holding Certificates of Competency) were over the age of 45, this suggests a large number of seafarers are at increased risk.

Because of its similarity to the flu, it’s not always easy to diagnose – especially at sea where they may not be easy access to a medical professional who can conduct urine or blood tests. Access to antibiotics to treat the disease will also be much harder to find.

In the past 30 years, there have been over 200 cases of Legionnaires disease on ships and it can have a devastating effect on your crew and operations. In one incident alone, 50 seafarers were infected and one crew member died.

Legionella at sea

All man-made water systems can be a breeding ground for Legionella and the conditions onboard ship provide the perfect environment for the bacteria to thrive. You should be paying particular attention to these areas:

– Any part of your water system that has a temperature between 20–50 °C.

– Any outlet that creates and disperses water droplets. This includes showers, sink taps, air conditioning units, fire hoses, and washing equipment.

– Anywhere that water is stored or re-circulated.

– Places where there are deposits containing nutrients that allow bacteria to grow such as rust, sludge, scale, organic matter, and biofilms.

What can I do to prevent it?

There are a few simple measures that you can perform to reduce the risks from Legionella at sea.

Boiler outlets
Make sure the water is more than 60 °C.

Taps, toilets and showers
If they’re not frequently used, they need to be flushed through at least once a week.

Hot and cold water supply
The hot water supply temperature should be greater than 60 °C and the cold below 25 °C. If they aren’t, then the water needs to be tested for legionella.

Showerheads and pipework
At least every three months, dismantle, clean and soak for a few hours in a disinfectant or chlorine solution. If a shower hasn’t been turned on for 2-4 weeks, you should do this before it’s used again. You also need to find and remove any plumbing that’s become isolated from the regular flow of water or is no longer used.

Freshwater tanks
To prevent the growth of bacteria, make sure the residual disinfectant level is maintained at more than 0.2ppm free chlorine. They also need to be super chlorinated twice a year with the water flushed through outlet points.

Testing

Ship operators have a responsibility to protect their employees from legionella, as outlined in the guidance from the Health and Safety Executive.

You should conduct regular tests to check for bacteria present in the water onboard ship – both your sewage effluence and your freshwater.

Drinksafe will allow you to maintain the safety of your water source as well its distribution system. It will test for bacteria and toxins in the water that you use every day for drinking, hygiene, and food preparation. For extra peace of mind, we can also provide a special add-on that’s specifically designed to protect against the dangers of legionella.

Know the risks and always ensure that your water supply is safe.

Contact us to learn more about our onboard legionella and potable water test kits.