The London P&I Club has urged shipowners to ensure proper maintenance of cargo hold pipework in order to prevent wet damage to cargo, which has become a regular source of claims.
In the latest issue of its StopLoss Bulletin, the club notes, “Leakage from pipework within holds continues to be a common cause of cargo wetting. Of particular concern are leaking top-side tank drain pipes and wells when located near or below the load water line, which can result in catastrophic hold flooding.
“By way of preventative maintenance, pipes should be monitored for signs of corrosion and kept well coated. Exposed pipework vulnerable to contact by cargo handling equipment should also be fitted with protective guards or covers, and securing clamps should be complete. Every opportunity should be taken to inspect difficult-to-access pipework in the upper hold areas at, and between, scheduled drydockings.
“However, even well-maintained pipework may become holed or fractured due to impact or vibration, and it is therefore important that thorough checks are routinely made of these fittings prior to loading cargo. Pipework which should be inspected includes ballast and bunker tank air vent pipes, tank sounding pipes, draught gauge pipes, fire mains, scuppers and top-side tank overboard discharge pipes.
“Particular attention should be paid to locations of coating breakdown, corrosion and obscured sections of pipe on the blind side adjacent to bulkheads or behind pipe protective covers. Any signs of heavy scoring, deformation or indentation of the pipes or guards should be investigated to check whether the integrity of the pipe has been compromised. The integrity of ballast tank air and sounding pipes should ideally be verified by carrying out hydrostatic tests, whereby the tanks and pipes are completely filled and a check made for leaks. It is also good practice to confirm the wall thickness of pipework when periodic class ultrasonic measurements are performed.”