The catastrophic incidents on a significant number of small product tankers and chemical tankers, some of which have led to a tragic loss of life, have highlighted the fact that the industry needs to update the current application of inert gas regulations to new oil and chemical tankers.
In 2006 an inter-industry group consisting of Intertanko, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Oil Companies’ International Marine Forum (OCIMF), European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH), International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) and International Parcel Tankers Association (IPTA), after working with a brief to look into the causes of such incidents and having examined the causes of 36 such incidents, submitted a report to IMO, concluding that the prime cause of the incidents was a failure to follow procedures. They recommended that:
• IMO give consideration to amending SOLAS to provide for the application of inert gas to new oil tankers of less than 20,000 DWT
• and to new chemical tankers
Intertanko believes that the present structure and application of IG regulations incorrectly gives the impression that the risk from the cargo is related to ship size or cargo tank size, rather than to the properties of the cargo. Intertanko and its membership believe that the application of IG regulations should be in response to the risk that is presented by the properties of low-flash point cargoes (flash point less than 60º C).
Intertanko believes that the requirements for IG for new ships should be simplified and made more consistent. This simplification can be best achieved by acknowledging that the application of IG should be based on the properties of the cargo carried rather than the size of the ship.
“If a tanker needs inerting for safety reasons linked to its cargo, then it should be inerted irrespective of the size/type of tanker and the size of the cargo tank,” says Intertanko’s Marine Director Capt Howard Snaith.
Intertanko therefore supports the principle of installing all new oil and chemical SOLAS tankers with IG systems (IG/IGG/N2 as appropriate), irrespective of ship size, ship type or cargo tank size.
Intertanko also recognizes the importance of the human element aspects and supports the continuation of further studies and training to address these aspects.
The IMO’s Sub-committee on Fire Protection (FP) will be addressing this issue next week under an agenda item entitled 'Measures to prevent explosions on oil and chemical tankers transporting low-flashpoint cargoes.'
Intertanko believes that this simplification of rules together with enhanced training will greatly enhance the safety of life at sea and eliminate accidents.