Tank Inspection Safety Precautions
Safety aboard oil tankers is paramount- still top of the list today as it was when I joined my first tanker as a Junior Engineer forty-something years ago, when safety was drummed into us young lads by the Chief and Second Engineers.
It was forcefully brought home as we passed close to the burned out hulk of a Greek tanker on our way up the Persian Gulf, and when the Old Man told me that it was caused by a Junior Engineer smoking in his cabin, of course I believed him!
Anyway I digress; it’s just an age thing and comes to all us old mariners. To continue then
The procedure required for entering an oil tanker cargo tank is controlled by a Permit to Entry system, in the form of a standard checklist. I have listed the fundamental requirements below, which when actioned must be witnessed and signed by the Master or Chief Officer.
A Permit to Enter Cargo Tanks Certificate (PTEC) will be issued once the following checks have been carried out. (Remember, this is just an overview so consult oil tanker rganizations such as the International Marine Organization (IMO), SOLAS or Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) for current official procedures for entering cargo tanks.)
- Tanks must be certified gas-free.
Gas-freeing is the responsibility of the Chief Officer who uses the ships inert gas system, be it from a dedicated plant or from the ship's engines or boiler exhaust fumes. (See my article on gas-freeing of Cargo tanks).
Vent fans must be run in extraction mode during tank inspection and regular samples taken to ensure the air within the tanks contains more than 21% oxygen, less than 1% explosive gases with 0% toxic gases present.
Tanks under inspection must be continuously monitored to ensure levels do not exceed recommended values, with this being carried out by officer on watch.
All oil suction and delivery valves to the tanks under inspection are to be shut, chained, and tagged. (Whilst sailing as a senior engineer on an old ESSO oil tanker, I had to make and insert spades to these valves as the mate thought the valves were passing.)
A notice must be placed on the tank entry man-way listing the names and ranks of persons inspecting the tank.
These must be worn at all times during tank inspection; any alarm must be followed by immediate exit from tank.
Radio contact with personnel must be maintained at all times during tank inspection.
- Hand torches and extension lights
All hand torches and lights must be certified for use in hazardous places.
All rescue equipment must be readily available in case of emergency evacuation of personal from the tank.