The UK P&I Club has reminded those working in the marine industry that significant insurance damage claims can result if a bulk cargo is damaged due to the leakage of the bilge system into a loaded bulk cargo hold.
To reduce the chance of such cargo damage, operators and surveyors are advised to inspect and test the cargo hold bilge system as part of the routine pre-loading checks of the cargo holds.
Inspection and testing of cargo hold bilge system non-return valves should be included in routine pre-loading checks of the holds. These non-return valves may not be seated tightly, because of the presence of previous cargo residue and scale around the valve seat.
Hold bilge sounding pipes should be positively proven to be unobstructed and comparisons made between the documented maximum pipe height and actual measurement at the deck datum point. The full depth of the sounding pipes should be confirmed when sounding any cargo hold.
Furthermore, maintenance and operational safeguards must be conducted in the hold bilge system:
Bilge system valves and pipework should be periodically checked and maintained as part of the planned maintenance system.
Rigorous procedures should be in place to prevent valves being left open when not in use.
Should a hold ingress alarm be activated, it should be thoroughly investigated, including checking all related systems and pumping of the bilges to observe for any discharge.
All the above have as a purpose to deal with the the risks of potential damaged cargo and the associated insurance claims.