Fix three common deficiencies to avoid vessel detention, say DNV GL

USCG port state control inspection, inspects an oily water separator. Credit: USCG/PA3 Brian N. Leshak

DNV GL representatives have highlighted three common Port State Control (PSC) deficiencies, as part of their ‘Top 18 List’, for vessel crews to be aware of to avoid an unnecessary detention.

At a webinar on 4 June, Jens Plötz, senior engineer DNV GL, presented three key examples for crew to look out for onboard vessels; fire closures or dampeners, lifeboat release hooks, and oily water separator (OWS). These were taken from DNV GL’s ‘Top 18 List’ of most recorded PSC deficiencies that lead to a detention.

“Maintenance of the entire ship is extremely important but focusing on urgent items is the best way to avoid detention,” stressed Plötz.

When examining the fire closures or dampeners of a ship’s engine room, PSC inspectors found that the shutter blades did not close properly, which is grounds for vessel detention. “The PSC inspector could put his hand through it,” explained Plötz. The owner said that this had been the situation since the vessel was a newbuild, and no previous inspection or survey had noticed the gap before. Crew installed an additional bar and moved the piston up further to reduce the gap between the shutters. Maintenance intervals were increased and sister vessels were inspected, and checked as a preventative measure, to see if the systems had the same malfunction.

In such cases it was recommended for crew to speak up if certain equipment does not look right. “Here crew need to challenge how regular maintenance is done, if as a crew member you see something that doesn’t make sense you need to challenge it and see what can be done,” said Claudia Olhmeier, group leader, PSC DNV GL.

Another PSC inspection found that the onload release hook on a vessel, which is situated in the lifeboat, was in the wrong position, and would not be released in an emergency evacuation. This was the case for the port and starboard lifeboats found on the vessel. “This is not just a technical issue but operational as well,” said Plötz. “Training methods needed also to be inspected as crew were unaware of this issue”. He recommended that posters showing how to use the lifeboat should be amended, or that there should be a better indicator on the hook itself. The instructions manual should be placed in the lifeboat itself as opposed to somewhere else on the vessel.

“Making equipment easy to operate and understand for the crew is essential, in this case it was for an emergency situation and it is paramount that crew know how to operate this equipment,” commented Olhmeier.

Finally, a vessel was detained because the oil content metre (OCM) was not working properly, so the oily mixture was being discharged at sea no matter if it was above or below 15ppm. It was found that one week before the detention a service company had visited and exchanged the (OCM), without DNV GL approval, and the sample lines were not amended or updated. The system was not re-checked by crew and so were unaware of the problem.

In this instance, Plötz recommended that crew are always aware of installation changes and to double check with the approval engineer that the new system is working correctly. It should also be assessed if crew need further training to know how to deal with new equipment installed and avoid further detentions.

“Regular maintenance onboard is key to improving PSC performance and avoid detentions, during this regular maintenance it has to be verified that the equipment is operational and compliant with international regulations,” concluded Ohlmeier.