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Loss Prevention: The Significance of Hatch Cover Maintenance

Updated: May 10

Frequently overlooked yet crucial. Leads to Substantial Financial Consequences for Ship Owners

Poor hatch cover maintenance can have disastrous consequences
Poor hatch cover maintenance can have disastrous consequences

In a recent case, we were entrusted by one of our clients, a ship owner/manager, to undertake an investigation concerning a filed claim against them. The claim, initiated by Charterers, centered on cargo damage attributed to wetting.

In this Loss Prevention bulletin, we will examine how inadequate maintenance of hatch covers can lead to huge financial losses.

The case

The vessel in question was an eight-year-old, handy-sized (45,000dwt) Bulk-Carrier, loaded with grain and en route to Rotterdam port for discharge operations. The voyage was marked by harsh weather conditions that persisted for several days.

Upon commencement of the unloading operations, it was discovered that the cargo within Cargo Hold 2 had sustained damage due to wetting, whereas cargo within all other holds remained intact. The majority of the moisture-related damage was localized at the cross-joint sections of the panels, situated near the vessel's centerline.

The Underlying Cause

The severity of the damage left the crew bewildered, as they had diligently attended to the maintenance of the hatch covers over the past months. Preliminary inspections yielded no conclusive results. The stainless-steel compression bars were found to be in satisfactory condition, the rubber seals had been recently replaced, and the overall steel framework of the hatch covers, including drainage channels, appeared to be in commendable shape.

The root cause of the wetting proved to be considerably more intricate than everyone had initially thought

The factors contributing to the cargo's exposure to moisture were rooted in a series of concealed issues that had gradually accumulated over time.

At this juncture, we, at Virtue Marine, were invited to conduct an in-depth investigation into the underlying cause. Approaching the task with a methodical attitude, we collaborated with various stakeholders on board (crew members, Class Surveyor, and P&I correspondent) to unravel the mystery.

Following ultrasonic tests that affirmed the lack of weather-tightness in the rubber seals situated precisely above the wet-damaged area, we embarked on a more exhaustive examination to determine the reasons behind the inefficient functioning of the drain channel.

This investigation revealed the underlying causes behind the prevailing matter:

⏩ Initially, a 1cm-wide aperture was found i.w.o the drain channel, which had been temporarily repaired in the past using putty.

⏩ Compounding the situation, the drain pipe non-return valve was equipped with a flap mechanism (instead of the conventional rubber ball), which (over the years) had been clogged by remnants of cargo & rust, rendering it non-functional. As a result, it was incapable of facilitating any water drainage.

The non-return valve (fitted with a flap) was non-functional: the flap was stuck, due to remnants of cargo & debris
The non-return valve (fitted with a flap) was non-functional: the flap was stuck, due to remnants of cargo & debris

The Importance of Hatch Cover Maintenance for Loss PreventionLessons learnt

Had the crew diligently adhered to proper maintenance and operational protocols – encompassing thorough wiping & cleaning of the hatch coamings and drain channels following each discharge operation, this unfortunate occurrence could have been prevented.

We would like to extend our gratitude to Capt Yves Vandenborn FNI & NorthStandard for their useful 'Master's Guide' publications on Hatch Cover Maintenance, which are freely available on their website & helped us investigate this case & train the crew onboard on proper maintenance of hatch covers.

Should you need technical assistance in the ARA region, you know where to find us. Contact us today & we’ll be happy to jump on a call & discuss your case. Let us be your trusted partner in the ARA region & let’s set sail for success together! 🛳️

📞 +31 639 83 45 81

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