Very little stands still in the shipping industry for very long and that is very true when it comes to safety in general and safety in specialised areas in particular. This month sees the release of the ICS publication Tanker Safety Guide Chemicals – Fifth edition. The Guide is considered as the standard reference work for tankers carrying chemical cargoes. The latest edition builds on the success of previous editions in increasing safety in what can be a very hazardous sector of shipping.
Although there has been less movement in regulation in the chemical tanker arena since 2014 when the Fourth edition of Tanker Safety Guide Chemicals was released by ICS than there was between that edition and the third edition of 2002, there is more than enough to warrant this new Guide.
Safe operation is almost always a combination of experience, best practice and recognition of changes brought about by regulation and trade practices. The new edition has been updated to reflect feedback from users and also to align more closely with International Safety Guide for Tankers and Terminals (ISGOTT 6) published in June last year by ICS in conjunction with OCIMF and IAPH.
Doing this avoids the potential for mixed signals to be given to users who would commonly use both Guides as references and the checklists they contain as operational documents. Both Guides are considered as essential reading for both ship and shore staff and copies of both should be readily available for consultation by crew and staff whenever necessary.
Tanker Safety Guide Chemicals is not a quick read and was never intended as such. In ten chapters spread over some 250 pages it covers all aspects of safety from the types of hazards presented by chemicals through training, safe working practices, regulatory frameworks, cargo operations and ship systems to emergency procedures.
The extensive changes in regulation that prompted the previous revision of the Guide in 2014 should by now have been absorbed by the industry and be reflected in safety management systems and company and ship procedures. However, it is an unfortunate fact of life that avoidable incidents do still occur sometimes with disastrous or fatal consequences. Usually this is because of the human factor and failure to follow established procedures.
Key issues highlighted
To go some way to address this, the new edition has been simplified and now uses yellow coloured text boxes to summarise and highlight key safety issues. However, it should be stressed that although readers should pay particular attention to the guidance in the yellow boxes these only serve to amplify the main text and are not intended as a short cut to full reading and understanding of the issues involved.
The two areas considered as being major safety concerns are enclosed space entry and PPE. Enclosed space entry has a chapter dedicated to the matter while PPE is covered as part of another covering Safety Management, Training and PPE. A high proportion of the highlighted key issues are included in these sections. Hopefully this will reinforce the message and prevent casualties.
The checklists that are provided in the Annex section have also been significantly changed adopting some new thinking on drafting and use from other industries notably aviation.
The checklists have become standard documentation across the sector and are used mostly without any modification. Previously, the checklists included an extensive section giving guidance for each of the questions. Now the question simply includes a reference to the particular section in the main guide. The wording has also been changed to be clearer and more easily understood by seafarers for whom English is a second language.
The main change is that where before it was possible for questions to have a negative response, now only positive responses can be recorded. If it is not possible for this to be done, a remark must be made giving reasons why and detailing what action has been taken to allow the operation to go ahead