Corrosion causes holes to ship’s hatch covers

In its most recent loss prevention series “Good Catch”, the American Club provides lessons learned from a vessel carrying containers that had several holes in its hatch covers due to corrosion.

A vessel carrying containers was found to have several holes in its hatch covers as a result of corrosion. When the vessel arrived, it was discovered that one cargo hold had 12-14 inches (30-35 cm) of water at the aft end of the hold. Sixteen containers had water ingress.

The cargo was not damaged in 4 of the containers, but in the other 12 containers, the cargo was declared a total loss. Several of those containers were loaded with consumer electronics. Several others had automotive spare parts. One had designer leather shoes.

On investigation, the crew did not conduct daily inspections of the cargo hold bilges and had overly relied on bilge level alarms. Unfortunately, the bilge level alarm in this hold failed when the float switch had become stuck. The vessel had no records of hatch cover inspections or preventive maintenance on the hatch covers.

The water ingress into the cargo holds was worse than experienced on previous voyages. The vessel had encountered several days of heavy rain and high seas during transit. But it was also raining heavily while the containers were being loaded. Thus, the source of the water could not be positively determined but it was likely from a combination of both sources.

The damage to the cargo in the containers exceeded $675,000. Additionally, several of the containers had to be scrapped at a cost of $21,000 each. Remarkably, repairs to the bilge level alarms only cost $175.

Lessons learned
– Are hatch covers inspected periodically for signs of wear, or corrosion, or damage?
– What should you do when you see a hatch cover with a structural or corrosion problem?
– What is your common practice for checking proper operation of cargo hold bilge alarms?
– What is your common practice for checking the cargo hold bilges prior to departure and while underway?

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