Vessel Hold Cleaning Services and Survey
The design of modern dry bulk carriers is centered on their holds and has over time evolved to be as efficient as possible in terms of volume of cargo carried.
But what happens when the voyage is completed and the cargo holds are empty? What comes next is a process that can make the difference between securing the ship’s next employment and losing a charter by failing to meet regulatory requirements.
Good cargo hold cleaning is vital for dry cargo ship owners and operators. This is where Constellation Marine Services can offer valuable support to ship owners, with a hold cleaning product that is extremely efficient, economical and consistent in application and end result.
Constellation offers Hold cleaning and hold inspection survey services that can demystify various and rigorous requirements, with predictable supply of manpower, material and proprietary knowledge so that owners can keep vessels to the correct standards between voyages no matter where they are in the region.
But what is hold cleaning – Preparation of a cargo hold prior loading is not just sweeping, cleaning or washing down the hold. There are a number of matters to consider, and failing to adhere to good practice can result in a failure to pass cargo hold inspection.
In the dry bulk trades, and with reference to West of England loss prevention bulletin there are essentially five grades of hold cleanliness as may be specified in the shippers / charterers contractual agreements:
• Hospital clean, or ‘stringent’ cleanliness
• Grain clean, or high cleanliness
• Normal clean
• Shovel clean
• Load on top
Hospital clean is the most stringent, requiring the holds to have 100% intact paint coatings on all surfaces, including the tank top, all ladder rungs and undersides of hatches. The standard of hospital clean is a requirement for certain cargoes, for example kaolin/china clay, mineral sands including zircon, barites, rutile sand, ilmenite, fluorspar, chrome ore, soda ash, rice in bulk, and high grades of wood pulp. Generally, these high standards of cleanliness will only be met by vessels trading exclusively with such cargoes. It will rarely be required in the tramp trades.
Grain clean is the most common requirement. A ship will be required to be grain clean for the majority of bulk cargoes, such as all grains, soya meal and soya products, alumina, Sulphur, bulk cement, bauxite, concentrates, and bulk fertilizers.
Normal clean means that the holds are swept clean, with no residues of the previous cargo, and washed down (or not, depending on charterer’s requirements), that is, cleaned sufficiently for taking cargoes similar to or compatible with the previous cargo.
Load on top means exactly what it says – the cargo is loaded on top of existing cargo residues. This standard will commonly be required where a ship is trading continuously with the same commodity and grade of that commodity. With load on top, guidance may be necessary for the master on any cleaning requirements, including the use of bulldozers, shovels and cleaning gangs.
Now what is Grain Clean, the most commonly used standard of cleanliness?
The usual instructions a master of a bulk carrier may receive, particularly if his ship is unfixed for next employment, is clean to grain clean on completion of discharge. There is very little information provided to the Master beyond the word Grain, and hence a complexity on the exact standards required, the resources to be deployed and the time available for the evolution, exists.
By definition Grain clean is “clean, swept, washed down by fresh water and free from insects, odors, residue of previous cargo /loose rust scale/paint flakes etc. dried up, and ready to receive charterers’ intended cargo subject to shippers’/relevant surveyors’ inspection”
It is also important to differentiate loose scale from scale from oxidation rust.
Loose scale will break away when struck with a fist or when light pressure is applied with a knife blade or scraper under the edge of the scale. Oxidation rust will typically form on bare metal surfaces but will not flake off when struck or when light pressure from a knife is applied. Generally, the presence of hard-adhering scale within a hold is acceptable in a grain clean hold. The scale should not fall off during the voyage or during normal cargo operations.
Different countries also apply different standards to what constitutes an acceptable amount of loose scale or loose paint. While in some countries, no such material is permitted, for example the United States Department of Agriculture (reference) permits a single area of loose paint or loose scale of 2.32 sq. m, or several patches that in total do not exceed 9.26 sq. m, before a hold is deemed to be unfit.
In practice, the hold should be free of loose scale as each surveyor’s interpretation of the required ‘standard’ may vary.
But irrespective of the standards to which a particular vessels holds are to be cleaned, the single biggest issue faced by the crew for hold cleaning is the size of the spaces that are to be cleaned. In typical Panamax Bulk Carriers, it is not unusual to have a hold space of around 17,000 CBM to be cleaned, and imagine this being multiplied by 5 or 7 holds. In ideal conditions, the crew may start cleaning during the discharge process itself, but in real world scenarios, the time available is much more limited.
To make matters worse, current hold wash discharge restrictions have increased 10 folds, and adherence (or lack of) to MARPOL Annex V has led to severe imposition of fines and penalties.
It is thus imperative that ship owners and operators consider the RIGHT SOLUTION, as it is likely that the consequences of not meeting the charterer’s requirements can be extreme.
We invite ship owners and operators to experience Constellation Marine services hold survey and cleaning bespoke solutions, from the beginning of the Hold cleaning process, to avoid situations where “one piece of coal left behind” can get the hold failed.
Constellation’s policy prioritizes the importance of hold cleaning to exacting standards and above, and our consultancy and advice is aimed to remove any misunderstanding that could potentially led to non-compliance, or worst, financial harm.
Cargo hold cleaning expenses initially may not seem as a payoff for ship owners or operators, but with the right partner and procedures that keep the ship moving and trading, will surely reflect on their bottom line.
To end; in the words of Asmyhr Dagfinn, Operation Manager AS Klaveness – “There are two places that a ship owner needs to invest; the holds and the engine. A good engine can help you to save on fuel, but the income comes from the holds,” adds Asmyhr. “If your holds are dirty and your ship is refused a charter, then you still have all the costs but no income. At that point you will understand there is no point trying to save on items which make a difference between making money and losing it”.