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Casualty Information

Information from DNV to the maritime industry No. 3-11 November 2011

Damaged air vent head adetainable deciency

Ship type: Bulk Carrier Size (GT): 31000 Year built: 2005
Course of events The vessel was undergoing a periodical survey by a DNV class surveyor. A total of 19 air vent heads (mostly from ballast tanks) were found to be defective and the surveyor requested the master to repair this before leaving port. This example is taken from a recent case but defective vent heads (sometimes also called air pipe closing devices) are frequently found in ship surveys, so this example is by no means unique. Extent of damage The main findings for the 19 vent heads in the case discussed were: n Guide pin broken in way of welding to float n Guide pin broken at lower end due to corrosion n Float shows signs of corrosion in way of weld seam, may crack in future n Internal corrosion of housing n Rubber seat dislodged making the float stuck & unable to operate n Due to internal corrosion, rubber seat is dislodged Defective air vent heads are a common finding during Port State Control inspections and will in most cases result in a detainable deficiency that must be rectified before leaving port. Probable cause The requirement of automatic closing devises on certain air pipes (from tanks) can be found in Load Line Regulation 20. This has been interpreted by IACS in Unified Requirements P3 (Air Pipe Closing Devices). The IACS UR P3 states some specific requirements for the design, materials and testing in order to have a common understanding between the Class societies for the approval of air vent heads. A vent head shall be approved (product approval or type approval) by a recognised body (e.g. a Class Society) before being used on board a ship. This should also be kept in mind when replacing malfunctioning vent heads and for the general maintenance of parts. The purpose of the air vent head (as defined in IACS UR P3.2.6) is: n to prevent the free entry of water into the tanks n to allow the passage of air or liquid to prevent excessive pressure or vacuum coming on the tank The most probable cause of defective vent heads is the daily exposure to the outdoor environment on deck, occasional sprays from green seas and ballast water being pushed through the vent head during heavy rolling. For the case discussed, the casing (house) was made of nodular cast iron and the float and guide pin were made of stainless steel (probably type 304). There is a great variety of designs and materials for air vent heads available in the market. IACS UR P3 is not so detailed on the material requirements. It states Casings of air pipe closing devices are to be of approved metallic materials adequately protected against corrosion. Further, it states that closures (e.g. floats) and seats can be of non-metallic materials but should be compatible with the media (in the tank) and ambient temperatures of between 25C and 85C. In DNVs experience, plastic floats have a tendency to become brittle after some time and we see that they crack and every so often break due to movements (hammering) towards the seat during tank filling operations and in heavy seas. The challenge with the stainless steel floats is that not all of them are so stainless after all. The material quality typically used is stainless steel type 304, which is not considered sustainable for marine applications. The less good stainless steel

Casualty Information No. 3-11 November 2011

makes the vent head cheaper but also requires a more frequent maintenance programme to replace corroded floats and guiding pins. Some vent heads are also equipped with a wire mesh as a spark arresting screen on top of the tank (it is a requirement to have the wire mesh for e.g. heated fuel oil tanks, or if there are anodes in a tank with a single air pipe, or if there are specific national requirements). In reality, our surveyors often see the wire mesh covered with paint. This will of course reduce the air flow through the vent head substantially and shall be avoided. We have seen a number of tanks, predominantly ballast tanks but also fresh water tanks damaged due to over-pressurisation. We recommend that the wire mesh is removed on fresh water tanks and ballast tanks were anodes are not fitted. Lessons to be learned n Malfunctioning air vent heads are a common finding, for both the Class surveyor and the Port State Control inspector. Each vent head is an essential safety feature on board and should be kept in good condition. A broken air vent head will most probably result in a PSC deficiency which must be rectified before leaving port.

only a few years in operation, we recommend inspecting each vent head annually. Such a programme should include the general condition (rust, dirt, functionality) and especially the condition of the float/ball/disc, guiding pin, seat and wire mesh (if installed). A vent head replacement shall be of an approved type and any replacement parts shall be of the original or an equivalent quality.

Special attention shall be paid to air pipes and air vent heads located in the fore deck (1/4 L) due to green seas and the ships movement. A cheap air vent head can become an expensive experience. The trend seems to be to buy the least expensive vent heads for newbuildings. This often means stainless steel type 304 as an accepted material quality for the floats according to present requirements (Load Line and IACS UR P3). However, this does not mean that such stainless steel is maintenance free. Manufacturers, ship designers, yards and ship managers are encouraged to consider the implications for air vent heads during a ships life of maybe 20 years. Air vent heads made out of aluminium or other grades of stainless steel have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Such materials are options to be considered in order to achieve a more maintenance-free vent head.

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The ship manager should ensure that there is a regular inspection and maintenance programme in place for the air vent heads on board its vessels. Since we see vent heads broken after

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Casualty Information is published by Det Norske Veritas, Classification Support. Det Norske Veritas NO-1322 Hvik, Norway Tel: +47 67 57 99 00 Fax: +47 67 57 99 11 The purpose of Casualty Information is to provide the maritime industry with lessons to be learned from incidents of ship damage and more serious accidents. In this way, Det Norske Veritas AS hopes to contribute to the prevention of similar occurrences in the future. The information included is not necessarily restricted to cover ships classed with DNV and is presented, without obligation, for information purposes only. Queries may be directed to Det Norske Veritas, Classification Support, NO-1322 Hvik, Norway. Fax: +47 67 57 99 11, e-mail: Det Norske Veritas AS. This publication may be reproduced freely on condition that Det Norske Veritas AS (DNV) is always stated as the source. DNV accepts no responsibility for any errors or misinterpretations.

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