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15 Important Points To Consider For

Efficient Tanker Ship Operations

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Though tanker practice is a very specialised subject whose training is disseminated
through Basic and Advanced training modules supported with intensive on board
training, it has been observed that even after adequate experience negligence occurs at
various levels, leading to challenges in ports for loading or discharging.
It is not only the duty of the Chief Officer or Master to look after various operations on
board. Every tanker man including, the cadet, must be aware of some basic practices at
different stages and support the senior management by bringing any non conformity to
their notice. To do this they must be aware of best practices performed on board.

I have enumerated a few things here which have come to my notice during my career at
sea either on my own ship or that on others in the entire fleet. This by no means an
exhaustive list, but surprisingly very commonsensical.
1. Take Charge Immediately: Even if it is your first day on a tanker, or the company or
even the first day in rank; the ship will not give you any discount on that account. The
problems will emerge almost immediately when you are least suspecting them. In fact
this may happen even if the ship is straight out of the shipyard. So just behave as if it is
your first day at sea and get cracking on learning the essentials of that vessel. Some
companies provide sufficient overlap for senior officers for this purpose; hence it is left to
the senior officers to ensure that all the support staff is adequately familiarised with the

2. Be Aware of the Cargo Plan: It is very important to be aware of the cargo stowage
and details in each tank before the loading operation. The plan may change while actual
loading, still it should be discussed during a pre loading meeting with as many ship staff
as possible and definitely with the entire deck crew, C/E and Second or First Engineer.
3. Display The Cargo Stowage in CCR: A very common but serious incident on board
is the shifting of cargo from one tank to another due to valves not holding. A white board
display in CCR will cost less than $20. Design it to display the Ullage and Mean
Temperature and Tank I.G.Pressures. Write down the final loading temperatures and
ullages on it after or before departure as per the final Bill of Lading. A daily glance and
comparison of the CCR displays will immediately alert the vessel management team of
a breach. This will save a lot of tension and running around if everyone visiting the CCR
for more than 5 minutes could check the Console display of Ullage with the white board

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4. Display the Cargo MSDS in the Cargo Control Room: This is not just the
mandatory requirement but also a necessity for the crew to be aware of what they are
carrying and how dangerous it is.

5. Check the I.G.Pressures: It is mandatory to have remote pressure indication from

each tank in the CCR. However, this will be of no use if the support staff did not know
the importance of it and simply pressed the Low Pressure alarm acknowledgement. If
the vessel is loaded fully to 98% , it is normal to have a daily fluctuation from High to
Low -Low Pressure depending upon the ambient temperature. Still a mean reading will
enable you to plan topping up of the tanks with IG.
6. Do not shut off the Inert Gas Inlet valves to isolate the tanks from main line: I
know this may sound crazy, because who will shut off the valves since this may subject
the tank to vacuum to over pressure or vacuum in case of malfunction of the PV valves.
However you will be surprised how many times this has been done in order to prevent
intermixing of cargoes.
7. Check the Cargo Heating Lines seriously: If your tanker has cargo heating lines,
you must test them as per PMS or earlier even if there is no plan to carry heated cargo.
With uncertainty in the oil market you can never be sure what cargo is being planned
next. It will be very embarrassing if a loading port is planned a few hours away with
heated cargo and the vessel is not sure of its heating lines.
8. Do not switch off the OVERFILL Alarms: When the vessel is 98% loaded, it is quite
common to have frequent Overfill (also known as Hi-Hi Level alarms) alarms in case of
rough weather. It is strongly advised never to turn them off. Few alarms are designed
not to be disabled , but it has been noted that the ship staff switches off the electrical
supply to these alarms. However even if the alarm has been isolated, ensure all alarms
are tested prior arrival to port.
9. Check Oxygen Content of tanks regularly and well before arrival: There is
nothing to elaborate on this for any tanker man. However this is a common neglect. The
equipment used to check Oxygen and H2S must be calibrated and have a certificate.
Any other special check required must also be carried out.

Photograph by Sohit Shukla

10. Pressure Testing of all Cargo Lines and Pre discharge tests: It is important to
carry out the pre Arrival Cargo checks as per the company SMS. It is surprising how
many Chief Officers and Masters do not carry out the pressure testing of lines (even
though the nature of cargo permits it). Most of the pre discharge tests start and end with
remote stopping of the cargo pumps. In case of crossing the Atlantic or the vessel
having faced bad weather during the voyage, it is advisable to carry out pressure testing
of lines at least 72 hours in advance. This will give the vessel staff sufficient time to
rectify any leakages of Dressor Couplings or any other defects in the pumps or
11. Reset All Cargo Pumps after trying out Remote Emergency Stop: This is a
common mistake that is made. As the last part of the operation, the pumps are tripped
from remote and the entire plant is shut down. This is not a correct thing to do. Whether

the prime mover for the cargo pumps is steam, electrical or hydraulic, ensure that the
trip is reset and the pumps can be started again. Depending upon the system on board,
this will vary, but whatever the system be, please ensure that it will start normally during
a Cargo discharge. If the system is steam based, ensure that the COP speed was
reduced to minimum before trying out remote trips, otherwise the pump will race or start
at a higher runaway RPM next time when the pumps are started. This has caused
serious accidents in the past due to governors getting stuck at higher RPMs.

12. Do Not Ignore Pump Room Bilge Alarms: Depending upon the yard the Pump
Room and Fore Peak Store Alarms are provided in CCR, ECR or a combination of any
of these. Please identify this as soon as you board the vessel and respond to a high
level Bilge Alarm in a positive manner without ignoring it.

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13. Check the quantity of feed water: Water consumption is relatively higher on
Tanker vessels carrying heated cargo and having Steam Cargo plant. This is the most
ignored area since depending upon the ship practice the responsibility may vary from
Engine department to Deck. Whether it is before arriving for a loading port for heated
cargo, or discharge, if your Cargo plant is operated by steam you may need to know
how much distilled water you have for the boiler plant. Doubly ensure this by taking
actual tank sounding, rather than depending upon remote gauges.
14. Cold Weather precautions: This has to be taken into consideration for all kind of
vessels, but there are a few specific areas to tankers which become critical. These
include completely draining the cargo heating lines; testing steam lines for deck seal;
draining the ODME pump in the pump room, tank cleaning heater etc. Any negligence
on this account may have an enormously damaging effect on the vessel operation. The
ODME sampling pump in fact should be kept drained at the casing, at all times, unless it
is required. The PV breaker liquid also needs to be checked for sufficient cold weather
15. OIL Record Book: It is imperative that the ORB (Oil Record Book) is filled up
completely and correctly almost immediately after an operation is carried out. However

this is not done in quite a few cases. Officer in charge keeps waiting for a few days
before making entries. This strategy can backfire at times if the officer forgets due to
some urgency, and it has happened quite a few times.