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Oil spill during bunkering

What happened?

During bunkering operations alongside, there was a spillage of around 3 litres of fuel when the hose coupling was loosened during fault-finding.  The incident occurred when a vessel took bunkers supplied by five tanker trucks, one after the other.  The bunker hose was connected to the manifold from the first truck.  Bunkering was started and after about four minutes, the truck driver complained of back pressure and bunkering was stopped.

To investigate the reason for the back pressure, suspecting that the manifold valve was not functioning properly, the Chief Engineer instructed the Fitter to open the hose coupling at the manifold.  As soon as the coupling was loosened, fuel oil sprayed out onto the pier due to pressure in the pipe.  Disconnection was stopped immediately, and the spilt oil was contained in the save-all at the manifold.

The local Coast Guard were informed and arrived at the site for an investigation.  They instructed crew to clean up the spilt oil on the pier and retain the sweepings onboard.  Clean-up on deck and pier was done using the vessel’s SOPEP equipment.  Reports were made to all concerned parties as required.  No restrictions were placed on the vessel by the Coast Guard or the port.

Bunker hose connection at ship’s bunker manifold
Ship’s bunker manifold valve

What were the causes?

  • The immediate cause was carelessness; without giving the problem much thought the Chief Engineer decided to open the hose coupling without checking if the bunker line was drained properly;
  • Causal factors were inadequate planning and inadequate maintenance/supervision;
  • The root causes identified were:
    • the Chief Engineer was not able to methodically diagnose the reason for the back pressure and did not consider the risks involved in opening the hose coupling without checking that the line was not pressurised
    • there was no check of residual oil in the line by opening the drain dock
    • no instruction was given to the truck driver to open the truck valve to allow the oil to drain back into the truck.

What action was taken?

A full review of bunkering procedures took place.  

Members may wish to refer to:

Safety Event

Published: 25 April 2019
Download: IMCA SF 08/19

Relevant life-saving rules:
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