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Watertight doors left open at sea

A member has reported a number of occasions during recent inspections on one of their vessels where auditors have observed designated watertight doors, which are to be kept closed at sea being left open as a matter of ‘routine’. This resulted in audit non-conformity and could have meant detention by Port State Control – to say nothing of the risk to the integrity of the vessel when at sea. Loss of watertight integrity resulted in multiple fatalities and the loss of Costa Concordia in 2012.

Common safety-critical elements aboard vessels include watertight integrity and measures for maintaining stability (for both the intact and damage cases) are commonly designed and constructed in accordance with codes and standards such as:

  • Classification society rules;
  • Intact Stability Code (IMO Resolution A749);
  • Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention;
  • Load Line Convention.

These codes specify that the use of such enclosures provide a level of assurance that the vessel could reasonably survive an incident involving loss of watertight integrity in a worst case damaged scenario. These codes presume that watertight doors are closed whilst the vessel is at sea. The doors in question are therefore permanently marked. This does not stop the crew passing through these doors but it is essential that the doors are then closed immediately afterwards.

Leaving these doors permanently open at sea, increases the risk of progressive flooding and loss of stability. International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) describes how watertight doors should be used, including how and when these doors can be left open and when they need to be closed. Vessel management teams are encouraged to ensure that all personnel are aware of the risks and that watertight doors are kept closed.

Close them and dog them

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