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How we might make cargo hold and tank cleaning on vessels safer and more efficient

Key Focus Area:

Crew Safety, Training and Wellbeing

Smart Maritime Services and Logistics

Tank cleaning is the process of removing hydrocarbon vapours, liquids, or residues from cargo tanks. The primary purpose of tank cleaning onboard oil, product and chemical tankers is to remove the most recent cargo from the vessel’s containment systems (tanks/lines/ pumps) in readiness for the next cargo. Cleaning also prevents the accumulation of cargo residues and is a necessary step in preparing cargo tanks for gas-free entry.

Similarly, cargo holds on bulk carriers need to be thoroughly cleaned before each loading of unpackaged cargo such as iron ore, cement and grains.

Whereas cargo hold cleaning is often done at sea during voyage, or whilst the vessel is docked at the shipyard, tank cleaning is done while the vessel is at anchorage. Vessels on the anchorages may face waves at times.

As both tank and cargo hold cleaning involve thorough and intensive cleaning in a confined space and at heights using ladders and cleaning tools, this labour-intensive process also poses a high risk of serious injuries. Shore labour and equipment such as cherry pickers (mobile elevating work platforms) are sometimes used, however these are costly and only applicable when vessels are docked.

Any safety mishap or incident also has potential knock-on effects on other stakeholders in the supply chain such as ports and terminal operators.

The Association of Singapore Marine Industries (ASMI), representing about 250 companies, is looking for a solution to reduce or eliminate the risks human workers faced during cleaning of tanks and cargo holds.

OSM Maritime renders services to over 700 vessels, including full technical management and crew management, and is looking for a solution that could facilitate cargo hold cleaning in a safe and efficient manner. The solution should be easily deployed by crew onboard vessels during voyage and allow for effective cleaning of cargo holds. This typically requires reaching heights of over 15m, and handling water jets with chemicals and cleaning solutions.

The solution should also be adaptable to handle different standards of cleanliness requirements depending on the nature of the previous and subsequent cargo (e.g. normal clean / grain clean / hospital clean). In addition, as the cleaning is often done during voyage, the proposed solution would have to withstand the stability conditions of the vessel at sea.

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