Watchkeeping, Dangerous Goods

Q. Where will you find the principles determining the standards of watchkeeping?
STCW.6/Circ.1 annex deals with the principles of watchkeeping. Chapter viii deals with standards regarding watchkeeping.

Q. What is the Master’s responsibility towards ensuring safety during the watchkeeping in port?
Part 4 of above circular / chapter VIII deals with principles applying to all watchkeeping.
Thus, on any ship safely moored or safely at anchor under normal circumstances in port, the Master shall arrange for an appropriate and effective watch to be maintained for the purpose of safety. Special requirements may be necessary for special types of ‘ships’ propulsion systems’ or ancillary equipment and for ships carrying hazardous, dangerous, toxic or highly flammable materials or other special types of cargo.
Arrangements for keeping a deck watch when the ship is in port shall at all times be adequate to:

  1. ensure the safety of life, of the ship, the port and the environment, and the safe operation of all machinery related to cargo operation;
  2. observe international, national and local rules; and
  3. maintain order and the normal routine of the ship.

The master shall decide the composition and duration of the deck watch depending on the conditions of mooring, type of the ship and character of duties. If the master considers it necessary, a qualified officer shall be in charge of the deck watch. The necessary equipment shall be so arranged as to provide for efficient watchkeeping.

Q. What general precautions must be observed prior taking over a general watch in port?
Part 4-1 is ‘taking over the deck watch’.
Thus, prior to taking over the deck watch, the relieving officer shall be informed of the following by the officer in charge of the deck watch as to:

  1. the depth of the water at the berth, the ship’s draught, the level and time of high and low waters; the securing of the moorings, the arrangement of anchors and the scope of the anchor chain, and other mooring features important to the safety of the ship; the state of main engines and their availability for emergency use;
  2. all work to be performed on board the ship; the nature, amount and disposition of cargo loaded or remaining, and any residue on board after unloading the ship;
  3. the level of water in bilges and ballast tanks;  
  4. the signals or lights being exhibited or sounded;
  5. the number of crew members required to be on board and the presence of any other persons on board;
  6. the state of fire-fighting appliances;
  7. any special port regulations;
  8. the Master’s standing and special orders;
  9. the lines of communication available between the ship and shore personnel, including port authorities, in the event of an emergency arising or assistance being required;
  10. any other circumstances of importance to the safety of the ship, its crew, cargo or protection of the environment from pollution; and
  11. the procedures for notifying the appropriate authority of any environmental pollution resulting from ship activities.

Q. What all must be verified by a relieving officer in port?
The relieving officer must arrive about 10 to 15 minutes before the watch starts.
Relieving officers, before assuming charge of the deck watch, shall verify that:

  1. the securing of moorings and anchor chain are adequate;
  2. the appropriate signals or lights are properly exhibited or sounded;
  3. safety measures and fire protection regulations are being maintained;
  4. the awareness in respect of the nature of any hazardous or dangerous cargo being loaded or discharged and the appropriate action to be taken in the event of any spillage or fire;
  5. no external conditions or circumstances imperil the ship and that it does not imperil others.

Q. What is specified in respect of dangerous goods?
Part 4-5 is watch in port on ships carrying hazardous cargo.
Thus, the Master of every ship carrying cargo that is hazardous, whether explosive, flammable, toxic, health-threatening or environment-polluting, shall ensure that safe watchkeeping arrangements are maintained. On ships carrying hazardous cargo in bulk, this will be achieved by the ready availability on board of a duly qualified officer or officers, and ratings where appropriate, even when the ship is safely moored or safely at anchor in port.

On ships carrying hazardous cargo other than in bulk, the master shall take full account of the nature, quantity, packing and stowage of the hazardous cargo and of any special conditions on board, afloat and ashore.

Q. What precautions are observed in respect of fire during watchkeeping?
The state of readiness in respect of fire is very important. Preventing a fire from occurring is the most important. A well trained crew is the best defence for bringing the fire under control. Ems guide should be integrated into a Safety Management System (SMS). The watchkeeper must understand that the fire-fighting procedures are different for “on deck” and “under deck” stowage. He should be guided by EMS schedules. The ventilation systems for working and living spaces should be shut off, closed and secured during fire. It is also essential to ensure that there is always, an escape route for fire-fighting personnel. Expert advice should be sought irrespective of how insignificant the fire may seem to be when dealing with dangerous goods fires.

Q. What class specific guidance regarding fire is provided by EMS?
Ems provides specific guidance in respect of fires of different classes. E.g., in the event of a class 1 fire, everything should be done to prevent the spread of the fire to containers which contain class 1 goods. If it is not possible to prevent the spread of the fire, all personnel should immediately withdraw from the area.

Master’s main concern will be whether or not there is probability of a mass explosion. Such an explosion could damage the ship. If goods of division 1.1 or division 1.5 are involved, this likelihood will exist. The time between fire reaching the explosives and the subsequent mass explosion will be of the order of a few seconds to minutes. The Master should ascertain how large a quantity of such explosives is involved. A few kilograms are unlikely to sink the ship, but above this, a clear risk to the safety of the crew and the stability of the ship should be considered. Explosives of divisions 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, and 1.6 are unlikely to explode en masse. Irrespective of the division of the explosives, any firefighting should take place from behind substantial cover. The use of the largest possible quantity of water in the shortest possible time is the only means of attempting to prevent a rise in temperature that could affect the chemical stability of the explosives.

Q. What factors must be considered in respect of spillage during loading a dangerous cargo?
Guide emphasizes on the importance of being in the state of readiness. The crew training and familiarity with the general contingency plan is important. Guide should be integrated into the ship’s Safety Management System. The magnitude of the effects of an incident depends upon the type, amount and the location (on deck or in enclosed spaces). The location of loading must consider post spill consequences and good securing possibilities.

Q. From where all the post spill advice may be sought?
Post spill advice could be given by:

  1. ship operating companies;
  2. emergency information centres;
  3. specialized agencies;
  4. professional responders;
  5. port State authorities;
  6. coastguard;
  7. fire brigades; and
  8. manufacturers of the products.

Q. What are the initial steps you will take in respect of spillage of dangerous goods?
The following must be avoided:

  • any contact with dangerous substances.
  • walking through spilled liquids or dust (solids).
  • vapours or gases.

Alarm is sounded in time. The bridge and living quarters are kept upwind if possible. Full protective clothing resistant to chemical attack and self-contained breathing apparatus are worn.
The stowage position of leaking cargoes, are located and cargo identified. The UN numbers and the EmS Spillage Schedule of dangerous goods involved are obtained. The measures of the EmS Spillage Schedule applicable are identified and followed. The Medical First Aid Guide (MFAG) is used without any delay. The designated person of the company responsible for the operation of the ship is contacted to obtain expert advice on dangerous goods emergency response measures. The Contamination of the skin with any dangerous goods should be cleaned off.

Q. How will you find the EMS schedule for a particular product say UN 2545?
The applicable schedule may be found from the table provided in Ems guide. It can also be found from column 15 of DGL in part 2 of IMDG code.

Q. What is the three steps of approach in MFAG?
For the convenience of users, and to ensure rapid access to the recommendations in an emergency, this guide is divided into sections which are grouped to facilitate a three-step approach.

Q. Name some tables listed in MFAG.
There are 20 tables provided. Some of the tables are related to:
Rescue; CPR (Cardio-pulmonary resusatation); Oxygen administration and controlled ventilation; Chemical-induced disturbances of consciousness; and Chemical induced convulsions (seizures, fits).

Q. How many appendices are provided?
There are 15 appendices. Some of these are:
Appendix 1 – Rescue.
Appendix 2 – CPR (Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation).

Some other appendices are:
Appendix 5 – Chemical-induced convulsions (seizures, fits).
Appendix 6 – Toxic mental confusion.
Appendix 7 – Eye exposure to chemicals.

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