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.’
Hatch covers on bulk carriers are subject to annual inspection by Classification Societies’ surveyors. The ‘Guidelines on the Enhanced Programme of Inspection during Surveys’ (ref. IMO Res. A744(18)) notes that hatch covers sets should be surveyed open, closed, and in operation at each survey, including:
- Stowage and securing in open position
- Proper fit and efficiency of sealing in closed condition
- Operational testing of hydraulic and power components, wires, chains and link drives.
In addition to surveys performed by the Classification Societies’ surveyors, SOLAS Ch. XII states that all bulk carriers must comply with the maintenance requirements provided in the ‘Standards for Owners’ Inspections and Maintenance of Bulk Carrier Hatch Covers’ (ref SOLAS XII, Regulation 7 amended by MSC Res. 170(79)). The hatch cover maintenance plan must also form a part of the ship’s safety management system as referred to in the ISM Code.
The responsibility for hatch covers lies with the ship’s operator. 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.
The 50 million GT, A- rated North of England P&I club 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. Tony Baker, head of the club’s risk management department said: ‘The cost of preventing these losses can usually be measured in a few thousand dollars or less. Often all that is necessary is the replacement of some defective rubber seals, some minor repairs to steelwork or sometimes just cleaning down a coaming.’
The best way to ensure your hatches are functioning correctly is by ultrasonic testing. This is much more accurate than both water-hose leak detection and chalk testing as it shows when you have the required compression and provides a precise location for any leakages. It’s more convenient too as you don’t need to interrupt your operations – the test can be carried out by one person and doesn’t rely on the hold being empty.
Ultrasonic testing equipment can be easily stowed and carried on ship so that you can check your hatch covers regularly. Hatchtite – our ultrasonic testing device – is particularly 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.
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