Essential Spares

Report Text:

This Company doesn’t take issues related to the health and fire hazards seriously. It was found around 10th Oct. ’06, that exhaust gas outlet expansion bellows of Main Engine No. 5 unit was cracked and leaking. I don’t remember the exact date, but a requisition was made to that effect asking for the appropriate bellow after attempts to repair the crack by welding by ship’s staff were futile. The above said crack was pumping a lot of exhaust gas and carbon “soot” in the engine room which were being inhaled by the engineers and the engine room crew of the vessel. There were sparks coming out at times from the crack leading to serious engine room fire hazard. But after the requisition, the said component was not supplied at our next European port on, 1st Nov. or the one after, 5th Nov. We had to sail out and the exhaust gas leakage increased to large extent, increasing the air pollution and risk of fire in the engine room. We experienced extremely rough weather and God forbid if this bellow crack had propagated to such an extent to remove the bellow completely out of place then during such rough weather conditions it would have been impossible to stop the vessel. But since the company was not serious enough and was trying to save on the money by delaying the supply (it should be noted that emergency supply of spares sometimes costs hell of a lot than the regular supply). It was not supplied by 20th of Nov. when I signed off. God knows the fate of the vessel if the vessel is still sailing in such a condition towards its next loading port in S America.

CHIRP Comment:

The risk of the reporter being identified was too great for the Company to be approached directly, but CHIRP is working to establish an alternative method of ensuring this issue has been addressed and that steps have been taken to prevent recurrence.

The Owner or his Representative has a clear obligation to report this defect to the Class Society and possibly to the Flag Administration. The failure to make required reports or to rectify defects promptly, if detected, can have serious consequences for Owners and crewmembers.

In this case an attending surveyor would have appraised the extent of damage and the possibility of a fire hazard. The Surveyor would then most probably have required an immediate replacement of the defective bellows and, if the Owner had been able to demonstrate that the replacement part was not immediately available he/she may have listened to proposals for a temporary repair pending the fitting of the replacement.

It is unlikely a temporary weld repair by ships staff would have been acceptable (and clearly and not surprisingly, it did not work in this case). A temporary repair in port by specialist welders might have been accepted. It is a requirement of SOLAS and of Class that hot surfaces such as exhaust manifolds are suitably insulated/covered to prevent any inadvertent ignition – not to mention exposure of personnel to burning. Another matter which may have pressing urgency is if any of the insulation in the vicinity of the damaged bellows contains asbestos and the risk this poses if it is being distributed around the machinery space.

The situation described by the reporter indicates that at the time of writing such protection was either severely damaged or non-existent. Setting aside the obvious safety dangers arising from the conditions described, the situation is almost certain to invalidate the Class and hence the Safety Construction Certificate.

The ISM Code at 10.1 stipulates that the Company should:

“… establish procedures to ensure that the ship is maintained in conformity with the provisions of the relevant rules and regulations and with any additional requirements which may be established by the Company.”

This must involve making an assessment of the appropriate spares inventory taking factors such as criticality of equipment, availability, etc, into account.