It is normal practice with this company to carry out dry-docking every 5 years with in-water survey carried out between each dry-docking as per Class regulations. The last in-water survey was carried out about the beginning of April 2004 and if my memory serves me correctly the next dry-docking is due about the end of 2006. However due to a three year charter another in-water survey is to be carried out at the end of June 2004 (two months after the first survey) with the intention of extending the dry-docking date until the end of the charter period for obvious reasons.
The vessel’s shell plating had two longitudinal cracks at the after end section. Both these cracks were reported to the company’s technical department by normal correspondence as well as reported in ship’s PMS defects list. The ship’s staff were instructed by the Technical Superintendents’ Department to weld one crack and this was carried out. At this point I must state that there were no qualified welders on board and in my opinion the repair should have been carried out to Class regulations by a shore contractor. Regarding the second crack reported, nothing was heard from the company up to the time I left the vessel.
I would like to mention that in this day and age when ships do fast turnarounds and spend very little time in port with only once in five year dry-docking, the Classification Societies must consider more than the under water areas of a ship when extending the dry-docking periods. They should consider the soundness of sea water pipes and associated valves and any other major refits / repairs that may need attention. The attending surveyors should have confidential discussions with the senior officers to get their opinion on the status of the equipment in the engine room and deck and check the on-going dry-dock list on board if there is one (it is normal practice on most ships to start preparing a on-going dry-dock list from the time the vessel leaves the dock), before granting an extension.
The Reporter did not believe this issue could be brought to the attention of the company without his being identified, so CHIRP asked the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) to comment. IACS referred us to Rev 3 of Unified Requirement Z3 (coming in to force next year), which states:
There are to be a minimum of two examinations of the outside of the ship’s bottom and related items during each five-year special survey period. One such examination is to be carried out in conjunction with the special survey. In all cases, the interval between any two such examinations is not to exceed 36 months. An extension of examination of the ship’s bottom of 3 months beyond the due date can be granted in exceptional circumstances2).
2): ‘Exceptional circumstances’ means unavailability of dry-docking facilities; unavailability of repair facilities; unavailability of essential materials, equipment or spare parts; or delays incurred by action taken to avoid severe weather conditions.
The In-water Survey is to provide the information normally obtained from a docking survey, so far as practicable. Special consideration shall be given to ascertaining rudder bearing clearances and stern bush clearances of oil stern bearings based on a review of the operating history, on board testing and stern oil sample reports. These considerations are to be included in the proposals for in-water survey, which are to be submitted in advance of the survey so that satisfactory arrangements can be agreed with the Classification Society.
Changes introduced in Rev.3 are to be uniformly implemented from 1 July 2005.
The wording of this procedure has been tightened up considerably, both with respect to the circumstances where an extension beyond the due date may be granted and information to be obtained during an in-water survey. These amendments, if properly implemented, appear to address the reported concern with regard to surveys to a significant extent.
With respect to shell plating repairs, all IACS members have rules to the effect that repairs which may affect classification are to be notified to the society concerned and undertaken to the satisfaction of a surveyor. Unified Requirements Z7, 1.3 and Z13 refer to the requirements for repairs and can be downloaded from www.iacs.org.uk.
The CHIRP Maritime Advisory Board considered this report and made the following observations:
• It is possible Class may have been called in after the reporter left the vessel.
• If repairs are undertaken without Class supervision then Class, P&I cover and Hull and Machinery insurance could be invalidated.
• The Board appreciates the pressure senior officers may be under, but reminds them of their professional duty to report defects to Class and a growing willingness on the part of some states to punish officers who seek to mislead with criminal charges.
• Reporting defects to Class may have a positive impact, improving their own data and leading to more robust designs.
• A short-term loss of time for a proper repair may prevent a greater loss at a future date.