Cargo fumigation remains a challenging operation onboard. An investigation by the Bahamas Maritime Authority found that the crew had been exposed to the fumigant gas – which had been used to treat a cargo of corn – after positive pressure in the accommodation was lost when the ventilation system was stopped by a large wave flooding the galley and store through the ventilation trunking.
Due to the fumigant gas leak, one seafarer died and three others had to be evacuated from their ship after exposure to hydrogen phosphide gas, it has prompted calls for a radical overhaul of the rules governing fumigated cargoes.
In addition to the checks after the accident it was found that the door between the hydraulic room and cargo hold was mounted incorrectly and the fan casing and ventilation duct located in the space, which served the accommodation’s sanitary spaces, were not airtight.
Investigators said the crew were not sufficiently aware of the risks of carrying a fumigated cargo, symptoms of exposure to the fumigant, or what to do if they were exposed. They had not smelled the gas and periodic monitoring did not detect it in time to avert lethal levels of exposure.
It is noted that there was no assessment conducted prior to accepting the charter, loading or fumigating. There was no guidance in the company’s safety management system, or any formal assessment of the risks associated with carrying fumigated cargoes.
In order to conduct a safe cargo fumigation, you are reminded of the following steps:
The ship’s cargo can be fumigated and ventilated:
– While stored prior loading;
– In the hold of the ship before departure;
– In the hold prior to departure with fumigation continued during the voyage (intransit).
Read another cargo related aritcle: Frequency of containerised cargo fires shows no sign of decreasing