A lashed valve was found to be partly open; investigation revealed bad practice with attendant risk of pollution.
What did the reporters tell us?
During a routine inspection by a recently joined ship management team, it was noticed that a bunker master valve showed 25% open, despite the valve being lashed ‘shut’ with rope. When the valve was checked, its handle and gearbox collapsed. The body of the gearbox was glued with plastic steel, and had been painted to conceal the problem; in addition a copper blank had been placed between the valve and the bunker piping system. The valve was in fact partly open with fuel oil in the line. Further blanks were located at the manifold. The necessary replacement components were fitted in due course.
The lessons to be learnt
The company was correctly concerned with this report. It emerged that there had been no previous order for a new valve, no record or explanation of the blanks, and no discussion at the time with the company office or at ship staff handover.
The company took admirable steps to emphasise the importance of timely and open ship/shore dialogue. Frequent communication between the office superintendent(s) and the vessel can assist with this. In the first instance a material defect was concealed, and not rectified, with potentially severe consequences: pollution, injury, and/or pipeline damage. We may surmise, but cannot know, the original reasons. The case is a clear illustration of poor prevalent safety culture at the time.