3.11 SHIP-TERMINAL COMMUNICATIONS WHILE LOADING
"On the 26th of May, the vessel began loading crude oil through
two hoses at No.l offshore buoy. At 08.30 hours on 27th May, the topping
off operation began and at 09.40 hours the chief officer asked the terminal
loading master, who was on board, to reduce the loading rate from 37,000
to 20,000 barrels per hour. It appears that the chief
officer and the loading master misunderstood each other, with the result
that the loading continued at the higher rate. At 10.25 hours, increased
pressure due to the closing of some of the tank valves, caused one of
the loading hoses to burst. The owners of the installation allege that
some 5,000 barrels of crude oil was spilled. A clean-up operation took
5 days. The terminal claimed against the vessel for cost of clean-up,
loss of oil, damage to the hose and loss of the use of the loading terminal
during repairs. The vessel was detained until a 'letter of guarantee'
for $1,750,000 was provided for its release. The claim was subsequently
reduced to $334,474 and was expected to be settled for about $275,000."
This case, from P&I Club files, is an amazing demonstration of how
the simplest communication between two trained and experienced professional
marine personnel can go awry. It is also clear demonstration of the
value of providing the terminal with a bar diagram or other loading
schedule, along with the loading plan, so that the terminal can foresee
the ship's operations and anticipate their needs.
The case also indicates that the officers or deck personnel were oblivious
to the sounds and feel of the ship's piping and valves as they topped
off at what was an unacceptably high loading rate. Before the ship began
closing tank valves for topping off, the officer in charge should have
positively confirmed that the loading rate had been reduced so that
topping off could be initiated safely.
The case illustrates the leading precept of ship-terminal communications:
many problems have occurred because of too little
communication, but few incidents have occurred because of too much!
The rule should be that:
Every move the ship is about to make is communicated to the
Every required terminal reaction must be positively confirmed.
The ship's officers should never assume that the terminal
has complied with their latest request until the terminal confirms that
they have done so. If the terminal does not respond, the request must
be repeated, along with a request for confirmation. If no response is
received to a second cargo operations request, then the ship should
use the secondary means of communication and prepare to conduct an emergency
3.11.1 Ship to terminal communications
The ship should communicate at least the following to the terminal:
- When all fast to the pier.
- When customs formalities are complete.
- When loading hoses have been connected.
- When ballast discharge is completed.
- When tank inspection is complete.
- Acknowledgement of all communications received from the terminal.
- When the ship is ready to receive cargo.
- When cargo has started entering the tanks.
- When loading rate may be increased to full rate.
- When the watch is changed in the CCR and on deck.
- Any problems with mooring lines, cargo hoses or the shore gangway.
- Standby to reduce rate for topping off.
- Order to reduce the cargo loading rate for topping off.
- Advice that topping off tanks has begun.
- Advice when topping off is complete and rate can be increased.
- Hourly advice of the loading pressure and temperature at the ship's
manifold and rate at which cargo is being received.
- Advice to standby on receiving a fire detection, gas detection, or
other significant alarm; followed by advice to shut down if a fire is
found, or to continue loading if the alarm is false.
- Advice of setting or changing the sailing time of the vessel.
- Advice and time that pilots and tugs have been ordered.
- Standby to finish loading a grade (or cargo).
- Instruction to stop pumping a grade (or cargo).
- Advice that the ship is ready for gauging and sampling.
- Advice that ship is ready to drain and disconnect hoses.
- Time that hoses are disconnected.
- Time that all crew members are on board.
- Time that vessel will begin testing radars and main engine for departure.
- Time that gauging/sampling is complete.
- Time that cargo documentation is complete.
The objective of good ship-terminal communications is a steady flow
of exchange which focuses the attention of the operators on the status
of the ship and the next event likely to occur.
3.11.2 Terminal-to-ship communications
The shore terminal should provide to the ship the following:
- Advice of when they will be ready to connect hoses.
- Advice when they are ready to load cargo (grade).
- Advice that cargo (grade) has been started on hose/manifold No. ...
- Acknowledgement of all communications received from the ship.
- Advice regarding the condition of the moorings and/or gangway.
- Hourly readings of the loading rate, total quantity delivered to ship
and ship's draft readings forward and aft (if they can be conveniently
- Advice if cargo loading is stopped for any reason.
- Advice of a fire in the terminal.
- Advice of any communications or parcels received for delivery to the
- Weather advice received.
- Notice of returning crew members who may appear to be intoxicated.
This amount of communication from the shore will be provided if the
chief officer makes clear during the pre-loading conference that is
both expected and essential, and if during the loading operation the
ship provides a corresponding amount of information as indicated in
When there are language difficulties between the ship and terminal,
the cargo watch officer on the ship must be provided with a phrase sheet
of the terms and orders to be used in the shore's
language and corresponding translations in his own language. This arrangement
is a poor substitute for adequate language fluency between ship and
shore and it should only be used as a last resort. A crew member should
be stationed at the ship's manifold to watch the shore operator. He
should confirm the operator's actions in response to requests by the
ship's cargo officer.