Published: 1 August 2016

In a recent case reported to the Association, holds were flooded, despite the fact that the bilges were being properly monitored.

In the case in question, hold no. 4 of a small container ship flooded to a depth which affected cargo in several containers loaded on the tank top. Sounding of the bilges indicated that no water was present. Investigating surveyors could find no fault in the structure or piping of the ship nor any problem with the bilges. The conclusion was that a small amount of rubbish left by stevedores had blocked the bilge grating covers which meant that accumulated water from rain and snow could not flow into the bilge well and therefore built up in the bottom of the hold.

It is unusual for any significant quantity of rubbish or debris to be found in the holds of container ships. It is also the case that there are few times when the tank tops are completely clear of cargo and so there are few occasions when the hold can be properly swept.

The lesson to be learned from this case is that every opportunity should be taken by the crew to clean up small amounts of rubbish and refuse from the holds, even if the hold is partially loaded. In addition, stevedores need to be discouraged from throwing their rubbish into the hold and should dispose of it properly.