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Pre-Loading Cargo Handling

Procedures on Oil Tankers

Voyage Orders
The vessel will usually receive voyage orders from the Charterers which will contain
the following information:-

 Ports of loading and discharge along with draft limitations (if any)
 Volume / Weight to be loaded, grade or grades and Densities involved
 Special requirements of cargo – e.g. heating
 Special properties of cargo – e.g. H2S

Planning Cargo Stowage

The following factors are to be considered when planning stowage of cargo as

 The limiting load line zone of the loaded passage and the port of destination.
 Draft restrictions during the voyage and at the load and discharge ports.
 Consumption on intended passage.
 The stress conditions should be within the permissible limits of the bending
moments and sheer force for sea conditions.
 Sufficient volume for possible expansion of cargo on the intended voyage.
 Two valve segregation of cargo parcels where applicable.
 Distribution and sequence of multi-grade cargoes.
 The sequence of multi-port voyages.
 Trim for efficient discharge and draining of tanks.
 Crude oil washing and final stripping.
 Is the product included in the Certificate of Fitness.
 BCH/IBC Code (whichever applicable for carriage requirements).
 Handling/cleaning procedures.
 Pollution category (MARPOL).
 Coating resistance compatibility.
 Inhibitor requirement.
 Heating requirements.
 Boiling/freezing point for adjacent stowage.
 Maximum recommended adjacent temperature.
 If specific gravity is acceptable according to Certificate of Class
 Prewash requirements.
 Vapor return.
 Toxicity
Loading Plan
A detailed loading plan shall be prepared to contain the following as applicable:

 Names and quantities of the cargo/products to be loaded.

 Quantity to be loaded in each tank.
 The pipeline system to be used with each grade.
 The sequence in which products are to be received.
 The final ullage of each tank.
 Identification of all valves to be closed / opened.
 The loading rate.
 Stress/BM at various stages of loading.
 Drafts (and air drafts if terminal restrictions present) at various stages of
 GM at various stages of loading.
 Ballast sequences in relation to loading.
 Depth available alongside at low water.
 Agreement with terminal regarding Vapour Recovery System settings ashore
and onboard.
 Any special instructions

The Chief Officer, in consultation with the Master, shall prepare the vessel’s load
plan. Information related to the vessels operation in port, e.g. cargo details,
connection details, port operation characteristics, tide details, mooring
arrangements, special port requirements, etc should be obtained from the Port
Guidelines, Agents, etc, in good time. Similarly, ship specific requirements must also
be intimated to the terminal, agents and/or charterer’s as required.

Tank Capacity
When cargo is to be lifted to full capacity, the tanks must not be loaded beyond 98%
of their maximum capacity, having due regard to the possible expansion of the cargo.

The following shall be considered when loading to full capacity:-

 The temperature of cargo at load port.

 The ambient temperature at the load/discharge port and the expected air/sea
temperature during the voyage.
 Cargo heating required during voyage/discharge.
 Multi-grades: – the possibility of heated cargo in adjacent tanks.
 Tanks with common boundaries with fuel oil tanks (mainly slop tanks) get
heated up as the fuel oil is heated up. Sufficient ullage to be allowed for this.

Vessel stability manual shall be referred to as maximum loading limitation with
regards to the specific gravity of the cargoes.

The vessel shall at no time be loaded beyond the relevant load line mark. The
Master and Chief Officer shall ensure that cargo calculations must allow for water
density, limiting drafts over bars/channels/canals, steaming time on long river
transits, and squat.

The load line regulations apply to the midship marks. A laden tanker tends to sag
and hence while the draft fore and aft may be within permissible limits, the vessel
may be considered to be overloaded due to the midship draft.

Loading Rate
Loading of cargo tanks with petroleum chemical products or ballast must always be
commenced at a slow rate. Once the flow has been established and into the correct
tanks, the loading rate may be increased to the agreed figure.

The loading rate shall be decided based on the following: –

 Pipeline / Valve size and the design of the pipeline system.

 Number of tanks being loaded.
 The possibility of static accumulation (especially static accumulator cargoes).
 The possibility of water or air in shore line’s increasing electrostatic hazards.
 Cargo temperature (thermal shock to steel work).
 Topping up rate and prevention of hydraulic shock to ship and shore line’s
when closing valves during completion of loading.
 The venting capacity of P/V valves or Mast Riser.
 Number of portable gauging equipment’s onboard.

In order to guard against the possibility of the tank over pressurization, it is essential
that loading rates be kept in accordance with the tank venting arrangements. It must
be noted that the maximum permissible loading rate will also be governed by the
nature of the cargo to be loaded.

Free Surface Effect

To reduce free surface effects and sloshing stress on the vessel, it is desirable that
tanks are loaded full (98%), leaving a minimum number of slack tanks. When tanks
have to be left slack, the volume in the slack tanks should be calculated so as to
safely remain within the sloshing limits prescribed for the vessel.

‘Sloshing’ is the movement of liquid within a hold when the ship is rolling or pitching.
It can give rise to:

 Structural damage caused by the slamming effect of the liquid against the
tank structure.
 Damage to heating coils and cargo pump especially during small quantities
including tank washings.
 An electrically charged mist in the ullage space of tanks partially filled with a
mixture of oil and water, such as dirty ballast or tank washings. This can even
occur with only a slight rolling motion.

In order to eliminate these problems, slack tanks must be avoided wherever


Ship Shore Safety Checklist

The ship-shore safety checklist as per International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers and
Terminals (ISGOTT) shall be completed after physically checking that all items
applicable to the vessel are complied with.This checklist shall be completed in co-
ordination with the terminal representative.

Tank Inspection

The ship is responsible for maintaining the cargo quality once it has been loaded.
Tank inspection is, therefore, one of the most important tasks personnel and done by
independent inspectors. The inspection requirements and methods vary according to
the quality of the product to be loaded and the cargo or cargoes contained in the
same tank or tanks during previous voyages.
Prior to loading, the vessel’s tanks are inspected by the terminal representative and /
or surveyor(s), who should sign a certificate as applicable, indicating the amount of
sediment, oil and free water remaining in the tanks prior loading as applicable.

PV Valves Setting

In the case of inerted vessels, if pressure sensors are provided as the means of
secondary protection, the alarm settings for the pressure sensors must be set to
actuate when the tank pressure reaches 10% greater than the normal actuation
settings of the pressure valves themselves. In the case of the low-pressure settings,
the pressure in a tank should never be permitted to fall below zero and the pressure
sensors should be set to alarm above zero.

In the case of non-inerted vessels if pressure sensors are provided, the over-
pressure setting should be set to alarm at 10% greater than the normal actuation
settings of the pressure valves, and at a vacuum 10% greater than the normal
actuation settings of the vacuum valves.

PV Valve
Line Up
Related Article: What is Load on Top (LOT)?

All concerned personnel shall be aware of the lineup to be used. Once the sequence
of loading has been agreed to, the pipelines and valves shall be set for loading.
Vessels fitted with drop lines for loading should use those lines for receiving cargo,
bypassing the pump room.

Valves not in use, both in the pump room and on deck shall be firmly closed and
where required, lashed. Where valves are operated from the Cargo control room or a
deck junction box, suitable indication shall be provided to prevent accidental

The manifold lines, not in use, are to be blanked with all bolts in place and tight. The
position of all main, stripping, tank and pump room valves must be checked to
ensure that those valves, which are to be shut, are in fact closed.

The High level and High-High Level alarms systems shall be kept operational at all
times during cargo operations.

Pre-Loading Meeting
A pre-loading meeting shall be carried out. The loading plan along with any relevant
topic with reference to the upcoming loading operation shall be discussed with all the
concerned personnel. They shall be provided with necessary information and
instructions for carrying out their duties and responsibilities.
(Loading) Tanker Basics
Good planning is the hallmark of efficient tanker operations.

Before a tanker approaches port, there are several factors that must be considered:

1. Testing of cargo/ballast valves, sea valves, pipelines, pumps, inert gas

systems, emergency stops.
2. Preparedness of fire-fighting, life-saving and anti-pollution equipment. A
pollution drill held before a ship arrives in port will serve the purpose of
checking ail equipment. Any response during an emergency will be good since
a drill had been executed recently.
3. Preparation of tanks, including readiness of slop tanks.
4. Planning for proper distribution of cargo.
5. Checking of cranes/derricks, winches and other mooring gear.
6. Checking of all communication equipment.
7. Pumproom fans to be running for at least 24 hours prior arrival.
8. Ensuring that oil record book is filled in immediately after each operation.
9. Filling in the pre-arrival checklist.

There are several operations that must proceed side by side as soon as a tanker is
tied up at the terminal. Each shipping company will have its own procedures as to
who does what.

A ship-shore checklist must be filled out on arrival. The terminal as well as the vessel
should be apprised of any special requirements, particular to that ship or to the port.

There should be a proper exchange of information. The terminal representative

should be explained the plan for loading. Similarly the terminal should point out any
peculiarities, shore tank to be used and its details, cargo specifications, ship-shore
communication and emergency stop procedures. Loading rate and rate on starting
and tapping off should be agreed upon.

The tanker must be securely moored at all times. It Is important for the deck watch to
know the state of tides. There is pot much room for tankers to move once they are
tied and the loading arms are connected, The loading arms should be properly
aligned to the manifolds throughout the operation, as otherwise, there can be too
much strain on the loading arm resulting in a catastrophe.
While taking rounds on deck, the watch keeper should ensure that:

1. accommodation doors/portholes are secured,

2. pumproom vents should be in operation,
3. no radio aerials should stick out from portholes,
4. radars should not be operational,
5. a sharp lookout for any signs of leakage through pipelines,
6. a watch overside,
7. a proper gangway watch,
8. no unauthorized visitors to board,
9. a proper manifold watch,
10. proper check on moorings,
11. scuppers to be efficiently plugged, rain water to be drained,
12. tank venting/vapour recovery system is properly lined up.

Safety precautions should be taken when connecting/disconnecting manifold and an

officer should be in attendance. There have been many incidents of tankers having
accidents due to improper operating procedures during connecting / disconnecting of

In almost all cases the tanks will be gauged on arrival. For this purpose, it will be
necessary to reduce the pressure of inert gas within the tanks when dipping empty
tanks. The on board quantity (OBQ) and Slop calculations are a standard procedure
before loading. It should be ensured that all the openings of the tanks are properly
sealed off and IG valve set properly prior starting operations.

After going through the preliminary checklist and ensuring that everything is OK, the
chief officer will proceed to line up for loading. He will then indicate to the terminal
that he is ready to load. Loading should always be started at a very slow rate and
into only 1 tank. Soundings/ullage should be monitored to ensure that the cargo is
going only to the tank that is intended to be loaded. The gas will be vented through
the mast riser or connected to the vapour recovery system, if fitted. It is prudent to
avoid loading through the pumproom pipelines. After everything is checked he will
then open up valves for additional tanks and then ask the terminal to increase the
rate slowly upto the stipulated rate.

Deballasting of tanks will be done as per the cargo plan drawn up by the chief officer.
The regulations now require that the ballast water be discharged via the high
overboard discharge (if fitted). ODME should be used when discharging clean
ballast. One person should monitor visually the discharge of ballast even though it is
segregated ballast. A special watch to be maintained when the ballast is being drawn
from the bottom of the tank. Some terminals may take objection even with the slightly
rust-coloured water that inevitably appears during the end of ballast discharge. In
conventional tankers the deballasting must be stopped as soon as the slightest
sheen of oil is detected in the ballast even though the ODME records a permissible
ppm. All the remaining ballast in the tank will then have to be transferred to the slop
tank, to avoid ballast mixing with the cargo.
When the tank is approaching top off ullage, a close watch to be kept on gauging. A
stand-by tank valve will be ideally kept crack open and change over to the new tank
will be gradual. During final topping off the rate of loading should be suitably

After completion of loading the tanks will be gauged/sampled once again to ascertain
the quantity of cargo loaded. After calculations and comparing with shore figures the
vessel will be cleared for sailing.

Some crudes tend to give off a lot of vapour in the first few days after they are
loaded. It may be necessary to vent off the gas in such cases to avoid excessive
pressure in the tanks. During the voyage the IG pressure should be checked very

When heated cargoes are carried, it would be important to monitor the temperatures
daily. The initial cargo calculations should allow for the requisite increase in

It may be necessary to top up tanks with IG periodically to maintain the tanks in an

inert condition at all times. Crew should be alert to the smell of gas anywhere on
deck. Gas leakage through PV valves and tank-opening gaskets is not entirely

Charter parties also require to take water dips when carrying crude oil since the
water will take some time to settle and can be determined more accurately only once
the vessel sails out from the loading port.

It would also be prudent to monitor ullages periodically and take immediate action if
any major difference from loading condition is noticed.
Ways to Make Cargo Operation on Oil
Tankers Safer
When it comes to cargo operations on oil tankers, utmost care should be taken
during the loading and discharging operations because of the extremely hazardous
nature of the liquid cargo. Needless to say, sometime even a small mistake can take
form of an ugly situation involving fire, oil spill, or even an explosion.

As oil tankers carry huge amount of highly flammable material there is always a risk
to the ship’s crew and the marine environment.

It is therefore also extremely important that the cargo handling operation on oil
tankers is headed by the senior officer in-charge of each department i.e. both in the
engine and on the deck.

Every crew member involved in the operation must be aware of his or her duties,
both routine and emergency situations.
The ship’s management must take all the necessary precautions and safety
measures to ensure a less risky and incident free operation.

In this article, we have enumerated 30 important points which would help to make
the cargo handling operation of oil tankers extremely safe and smooth.

1. Close Accommodation Openings: Ensure that all openings to the

accommodation area are closed to avoid ingress of cargo vapours during cargo
operation. While taking this step, it is obvious that there would be some discomfort to
the ship’s crew because of high humidity and temperature condition. However, for
the sake of safety such condition should be tolerated for some time.

2. Shut AC if Required: If the AC system’s intake air is drawing cargo vapours, it

should be stopped immediately and the intake ports of the accommodation area
should be shut.

3. Isolate Window AC Unit: If there is any window AC unit present on the ship, it
should be isolated if the need arise.

4. Shut Natural Ventilation: If any kind of natural ventilation is present, it must be

trimmed away from the direction of the cargo vapour flow. In case it is not possible to
do so, the ventilation should be isolated and covered.

5. Shut Cargo Tank Lids: All Cargo tanks lids containing hydrocarbon vapours
must be in shut position.

6. Shut Sighting and Ullage Ports: All sighting and ullage ports must be kept shut
during cargo or ballast operation. They should be opened only when required and
with due precautions.

7. Keep Vents in Operation: Cargo Tank Vents, PV valves and high velocity vent
valves should be kept in operation during the cargo handling procedure.

8. Shut Segregated ballast tanks lid: Segregated ballast tanks lid should be kept
in closed position to avoid ingress of hazardous vapour during loading/ discharging

9. Shut Washing Cover During Tank Washing and Gas Freeing

Operation: While tank washing or gas freeing operation, the washing covers should
be removed. However, during all other times it must be on its place and in closed

10. Check high pressure alarm: Check High pressure alarm of the cargo tank
before starting the loading operation.
11. Check gland condition of pumps: Check gland condition of cargo pumps
located in pump room.

12. Check Strainer cover, inspection plates and drain plug: Strainer cover,
inspection plates and drain plug in pump room must be in proper position.

13. Check pump room at regular intervals of time: Regular watch on pump room
should be carried out during cargo handling.

14. Check alarms and trips: All alarms and trips should be checked before any
cargo operation.

15. Check Cargo hoses and flange connections: Cargo hoses and flange
connections used for oil handling must be checked thoroughly before use.

16. Handle hoses properly: Hoses must be lifted and should not be dragged on
the deck. Hoses should also be supported at a number of places to avoid twisting.

17. Adjust Hoses when required: As the cargo operation proceeds, the draught of
the ship will also change. The hoses must be adjusted according to the condition to
avoid stretch.

18. Check Flanges: All flanges must be properly tightened by bolting each bolt.
New gasket must be used at every operation.

19. Remove flange with precautions: While removing blank flange from any
section of pipeline, ensure that it does not contain oil at a pressure and that the blank
flange used is of steel or other approved metal.

20. Check limits of elevation for metal cargo arm: The limit of elevation for metal
cargo arm must be checked as it is designed to operate under varying elevations
because of the tide effects. This must be compared to the ship’s data before
approving the cargo operation.

21. Handle parking lock carefully: There is parking lock provided in the arm which
must not be removed unless the metal arm is empty or else oil spill can take place.

22. Remove ice: If there is any ice on the arm, it must be removed to avoid
imbalance before opening the parking lock.
23. Keep an eye on mooring ropes: When an arm is connected for operation,
mooring ropes must be monitored and if excessive drifting is there, operation must
be stopped immediately.

24. Avoid Charge Arching: All Ship shore piping, flanges, and metal arm must be
earthed to avoid any charge arcing.

25. Check emergency release: Emergency release must be checked before hand
and if possible draining arrangement should be kept ready in order to drain as much
oil as possible in case of oil spill emergency.

26. Ensure adequate light is provided at night: Adequate lights must be provided
at cargo station and pump room during night operation.

27. Check the weather condition: Weather condition should be discussed by the
master of the ship along with the terminal in-charge.

28. Stop in Rough Weather: The ship cargo operation must be stopped
immediately (whether or not the ship tanks are equipped with IG system) during
lightening, storms, and rough weather condition.

29. Keep emergency equipment in standby position: All oil spill fighting
equipment and fire fighting equipment must be ready at all times.

30. Keep personal protective equipment ready: All personal protective

equipment must be worn and equipment such as gas detection and SCBA must be
kept ready.