West of England P&I Club has noted a concerning rise in incidents involving vessels undergoing in-transit cargo fumigation leading to the accidental exposure of crew members to phosphine gas (PH3).
ccording to West, the impact of such exposure has been grave, resulting in severe illnesses, rapid decline in crew health, and, in some instances, fatalities. Remarkably, certain incidents have taken place within cargo holds certified as gas-free.
The insidious nature of phosphine gas makes it particularly hazardous without proper detection systems in place, West warns. Since the gas lacks any distinct odour or colour, crew members may remain unaware of its presence until symptoms of poisoning become apparent.
To ensure the effective prevention of gas-related incidents, the Club emphasises the need for a multi-faceted approach:
- Identification and confirmation of gas-tight cargo holds by the responsible fumigator, with particular attention given to those adjacent to accommodation and working spaces.
- A thorough inspection of all areas that could be affected by fumigant gas entry to identify and rectify potential risks.
- Maintenance of positive pressure within accommodation ventilation systems and surrounding areas to prevent gas ingress.
- Installation of a reliable gas detection and alarm system, particularly in the engine room, where positive pressure air environments may be challenging to maintain.
- Regular inspections, maintenance, and calibration of gas detection equipment to ensure accurate and dependable readings.
- Comprehensive training for the crew on gas detection systems, including operational procedures, interpretation of alarm signals, and appropriate responses during gas-related emergencies.