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Ship-to-ship lightering is a specialised trade best performed by experienced vessels and crews using special equipment. When properly organised and conducted, it is no more dangerous than offloading at a shore terminal and eliminates the hazard of large, deep laden tankers entering and manoeuvring in confined waters.

5.7.1 OCIMF guidelines
The International Chamber of Shipping and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum have prepared a Ship-to-ship transfer guide (petroleum) which provides 'guidance for masters, marine superintendents and others responsible for planning and conducting the transfer of petroleum and petroleum products between oceangoing vessels at sea.' The text of the guidelines covers only 18 pages and should be read completely by the master and officers of any vessel which is scheduled to participate in ship-to-ship lightering operations. Preparation for lightering should follow the OCIMF checklists which accompany the procedures, supplemented by such other checklists which local authorities may require or which the owner's or charterer's may have provided.
The detailed recommendations of the procedures will not be repeated here, however the operational checklists are copied to provide ready reference. Questions regarding any checklist item are answered in the main body of the guide.

5.7.2 Before operations commence
1 Complete the checklist to verify ship compatibility.
2 Establish radio communications.
3 Verify that hand held radios are in order.
4 Agree on the language to be used for controlling the mooring/offloading.
5 Verify that the correct cathodic protection procedure is in use.
6 Verify agreement on rendezvous position.
7 Agree methods of approach, mooring and unmooring; decide which ship will provide the moorings.
8 Verify that the ship has no list and has acceptable trim.
9 Test engines, steering gear, steering and machinery controls and navigation equipment and verify correct performance.
10 Advise the chief engineer of the pending engine requirements.
11 Obtain and review weather forecasts for the transfer area; verify that forecast meets limiting criteria.
12 Check all hose hoisting equipment and confirm that it is ready for use.
13 Prepare and mark manifold connections.
14 Verify that hose tests are current and that hoses are in good condition.
15 Verify condition of fenders, handling equipment, securing wires, and tire nettings.
16 Prepare off-side anchor for dropping (where applicable).
17 Prepare navigation signals for hoisting or illumination.
18 Verify condition and readiness of required mooring lines.
19 Verify proper function of mooring winches and winch brakes.
20 Prepare messengers, stoppers and heaving lines for use and distribute as needed.
21 Inform the crew of the details of the anticipated mooring plan.
22 Prepare and agree on a contingency plan for safety and pollution emergencies.
23 Advise local authorities according to local requirements.
24 Broadcast a navigation warning of the proposed lightering operation.
25 Each ship to advise the other when this checklist has been completed.

5.7.3 Before approach and mooring
1 Verify that the previous checklist has been completed.
2 Verify that primary fenders are properly moored at the appropriate points along the hull and that the handling gear (davits) have been retracted inboard.
3 Verify that any secondary fenders are properly deployed and moored.
4 Verify that all equipment protruding over the side of the ship has been retracted.
5 Pass the word that in-port smoking regulations are in effect.
6 The best helmsman should be at the wheel.
7 Plug and seal all scuppers.
8 Exchange course and speed information with the other vessel.
9 Establish control of the engine speed by revolutions.
10 Verify that the immediate area is clear of closing vessel traffic.
11 Display the correct navigation signals.
12 Verify that all accommodation doors and ports are closed.
13 Verify that anti-pollution and fire-fighting equipment is properly arranged and ready for use.
14 Arrange deck lighting to best advantage, including sufficient illumination of the fenders.
15 Verify that all hand lanterns/flashlights to be used on deck are of an approved type.
16 Verify correct function of the portable transceivers; only intrinsically safe transceivers to be used.
17 Verify that power is available for winches and windlass.
18 Position mooring crew personnel at their stations.
19 Establish radio communication with mooring crew supervisors.
20 Advise the other vessel of the completion of this checklist.

5.7.4 Before cargo transfer
1 Recover the gangway to its inboard stowed position and secure it.
2 Establish radio communication with the other vessel.
3 Verify agreement on use of emergency signals and shutdown procedures.
4 Set the prescribed bridge navigation watch.
5 Establish and efficient deck watch, detailed to attend moorings, fenders, hoses and the transfer manifold.
6 Set an efficient engine room watch; maintain engines on standby.
7 Agree to the initial cargo transfer rate.
8 Agree to the maximum transfer rate.
9 Agree to the topping-off transfer rate.
10 Plug main deck scuppers oil tight; verify readiness of the drip trough under the manifold.
11 Test transfer hoses after connection (where applicable).
12 Ensure that hoses are properly supported.
13 Verify that sea suction and overboard discharge valves for the cargo system piping are closed tight and sealed.
14 Have all necessary tools immediately available to the manifold for rapid disconnection.
15 Disconnect any window-type air conditioning units in the accommodation.
16 Close all air conditioning intakes which may permit he entry of cargo vapours.
17 Position fire axes and cable cutters fore and aft for emergency disconnect if necessary.
18 Verify that all unused manifold valves are closed and all unused manifold flanges blanked.
19 Verify that fire-fighting and anti-pollution equipment is ready for immediate use.
20 Verify that the agreed tank venting system is being used.
21 Verify that the inert gas system (if fitted) is operational.
22 Close down the ship's radio station and ground (earth) all transmitting antennas.
23 Advise the other vessel when this checklist has been completed.

5.7.5 Before unmooring
1 Verify that the cargo hose end and the manifold has been blanked.
2 Verify that the transfer side of the ship is clear of obstructions.
3 Agree to the procedure to be used for disengaging and letting go the moorings.
4 Verify that the fenders are in good order and properly secured.
5 Verify that power is available to the winches and windlass.
6 Verify that messengers, stoppers and other necessary gear is ready at each mooring station.
7 Verify that the mooring crew is standing by at their stations.
8 Establish communications with the other ship.
9 Verify that clear communications are available between master and mooring gangs.
10 Check area traffic and warn off any approaching vessel(s).
11 Clearly advise mooring crew and their supervisors that they are to cast off only as directed by the departing vessel's master.
12 Advise the other vessel that this checklist has been completed.
13 When clear of the other ship, cancel any navigation warnings which were issued for the transfer.

5.7.6 Basic precautions
It is apparent from the checklists that careful planning of a ship-to-ship lightering operation is critical to success. Without careful planning and consultation between ships, errors and delays will interfere with timely completion of the work and may cause accidents or incidents.
During the transfer, the operation must be constantly under control. If either cargo officer thinks is in doubt as to the safety or control of the operation, he must call for an immediate shutdown of the cargo pumps, until the uncertainty is resolved.

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