Load shifting is a commonly dangerous situation for ships carrying solid cargo, bulk cargo ships and containerships. A good seamanship and compliance to safety regulations while loading or trimming, are some of the factors that should be considered before operations start.
- For containerships, problems are mostly caused by failure during the loading procedures while there are numerous things to be done in a specific way. It is very important for the vessels carrying containers to follow the loading guidelines, trying to achieve a safe stowing of the cargo as deck cargoes are more vulnerable and always exposed to weather conditions and other forces.
- For bulk carriers, is an equally dangerous situation, especially for ships loaded with grain as this type of cargo can lead to free surface effect which causes stability issues to the vessel.
However, past experience and incidents that led to property damage, injury or death, are the todays guidelines to prevent unfavorable conditions. The loading plan should always prepared carefully and, especially for containerships, calculations should include the characteristics of each loading and all different sizes of containers. Also, the crew should be trained on board and ashore, learning the importance of regular cargo hold or cargo on deck inspection, checking the lashings condition and for safety reasons, learn how to act during emergency situations of a cargo shifting.
Real life accident
A container ship was carrying paper rolls from Canada to Europe. Bad practices followed by the stevedores during loading procedures led to disagreement between them and the chief officer, but finally the ship been loaded according to the stevedores’ suggestions. The cargo had been loaded at different heights and widths with a lot of void space between the stacks, however the chief officer decided not to ask the reloading, hoping that the weather won’t be more severe. The vessel departed with not very heavy weather conditions, but when entered the North Atlantic encountered very severe conditions causing an excessive list of the vessel, about 30o. Paper rolls shifted, although the crew tried to secure the cargo by placing air cushions and robber bags between cargo rolls. This was extremely dangerous, so they been ordered to abandon the effort and other practices been followed, such as starting the anti-heeling system, reduce speed and change course but in the end the cargo shifted, causing a huge cargo damage.
Actions to be taken
When a related incident is taking place, the crew should be properly prepared to control the situation, managing to do the following:
- Activate general alarm and call the Master
- Report to master for the damages and then inform the office reporting the situation. Relevant shore authorities should be informed as well.
- Ensure that required deck devices are available
- Alter course, reduce speed and where is no risk to life, arrangements to be made in order to secure the cargo and prevent further shift.
SQE Marine provides guidelines to vessel’s crew, on what should be done in case of an emergency situation caused by a cargo shifting. The appropriate actions are listed in the “Emergency Checklist” below: