CRITICAL OPERATIONS ON BOARD LPG TANKERS
By Capt. Victor Guinto. Jr.
The nature of it’s cargoes makes LPG Tankers one of the most hazardous vesselstoday. In spite of the fact, they are among the safest and cleanest vessels to be on. Theidea is if we take a very close look at the critical operations and manage the risks properly, then safety can be maximized and risks minimized.Among the critical operations are: Loading Operations, Discharging Operations, Ship-to-Ship Operations, Gas Freeing, and Gassing-up Operations. We will take a brief look ateach of these.Before loading operations start, the Ship/Shore Interface procedures must be done andthe Ship/Shore Safety Checklist completed and signed. This will be the basis of how boththe ship and terminal will conduct the operations according to an agreed plan. Standardand emergency communication will be agreed upon. Initial, normal, and final loadingrates will be discussed. Allowable list and trim are also included. The idea is all itemsthat are essential to be understood, clarified and agreed upon must be done at this point.The loading plan is a critical tool for the success of the voyage. Changes intemperature during the voyage will greatly affect the volume of the cargo. On arefrigerated or semi-refrigerated gas tanker, temperatures can be controlled but on a fully- pressurized gas tanker temperatures are subject to the weather conditions. The maximumloadable quantity therefore must be subject to repeated checks. The most critical time isduring topping-up of the tanks. Continuous monitoring is a key to safety during loadingoperations.Discharging operations are similar to loading operations except that they are done inreverse. Ship/Shore Interface procedures as well as the other safety checks are standard.One difference is the use of pumps and compressors. They must be checked and tried outat least 24 hours before discharging to ensure that they are working properly. They arealso run just before the discharging operations. It is normal to discharge the liquid part of the cargo with part of the vapour remaining.Ship-to-ship operations are done when the infrastructure of terminals are insufficientfor some tankers. This is one of the most critical and riskiest operations. Loading anddischarging operations are basically similar. The number of mooring lines used is muchmore than in port and requires more frequent tending and care. Mooring lines can partdue to abrasion.Gas-freeing is a procedure usually done before dry docking, tank inspection, or tank cleaning. The goal is to replace the cargo gas inside the tanks with inert gas then with air to reduce the risk of having an explosive condition. This can be done by proper inerting