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Ships bunkering operation - planning, preparation, safety checks & confirmation

Fuel oil bunkering is a critical operation on board ships which requires receiving oil safely into the ships tanks without causing an overflow of oil. It involve many hazards and careful consideration will need to be made for safe planning and execution. When disputes arise over quantity and quality transferred, investigations after delivery are usually inconclusive if the shipboard personnel of the receiving vessel is not correct and or fully informed and trained. Protests, legal fees, management time, loss of goodwill, stress all add on to costs with usually neither party concluding with certainty what transpired onboard. We summarized below some basic check points for safe bunkering. These procedures are only indicative, not exhaustive in nature and one must always be guided by practices of good seamanship

containerships operational matters
Oil Tanker Safety Guide
Bunkering checklists should be implemented to reduce the risk of negligence and other operational errors. They must be followed in consultation with the chief engineer, as he is normally the designated officer-in-charge of the bunkering operation. Before bunkering, usually, a junior engineering officer takes soundings of bunker tanks and calculates the volume of fuel oil available in every fuel oil tank on the ship. Then a bunker plan is prepared for the distribution of the fuel oil to be received.

Preparation of bunkering plan
  1. The vessel should have adequate space for the volume of the bunker to be loaded. It should be met with below safety margin 90% under for each deep Tanks, 85% under for each double bottom tanks of FO tank capacity, 80% under the last loading tank for a double bottom tank as far as possible.
  2. Order of tanks to be loaded should be considered on to make the heel and trim of the vessel during bunkering minimal.
  3. The personnel positioning and work demarcation should be clarified and entered in the list of personnel to engage in the FO/LO transfer work, and put up near the bunker station
  4. Masters authorization and signature should be obtained in the above list.
  5. FO/LO transfer work procedures and piping diagrams put up in the bunker station
  6. An onboard meeting on personnel positioning and work proceeding should be held to have well-known crew matters that required attention
  7. A Pre-loading plan should be prepared, which should include the followings: Identification, location, the capacity of tanks receiving oil Level, type of liquid in each bunker tank before scheduled bunkering. Planned final ullage/innage, and planned final percent of each tank to be filled and their sequences. Procedures to monitor all bunker tank levels and valve alignments should also be included in such a pre-plan. A copy of it should be posted at a place where the plan is easily seen by vessel personnel engaged in bunkering

Oil tanker at sea
Oil tanker at sea

Preparation for bunkering prior to arrival at bunkering port: Matters that need positive confirmation
  1. Valves and pipelines marked for easy identification
  2. Valve markings correct. Have round covers on the floor plates in the machinery space also been confirmed?
  3. All deck scuppers effectively plugged (Are wooden plugs, if any cemented up)
  4. It been confirmed that no deficit, cracks, corrosion, and the like exist on the pipeline to be used?
  5. A leak test to the pipeline by the air pressure of 5 kg/cm2 or under been carried out. To be entered the date of the last testing in the remark column.
  6. Operation of remote valves and level gauges used in bunkering been confirmed and also accuracy of remote gauging system verified(if fitted)
  7. Bilge line valves fully closed and secured
  8. All the pressure gauges to be used working satisfactorily
  9. All thermometers fitted in manifold working satisfactorily
  10. Alarm setting on overfill alarm accurate & operational(if fitted)
  11. The pre-transfer conference has been held with both PIC of receiving vessel and delivering vessel or facility, which include Contents of the declaration of inspection, Procedure for repaying topping off information, Emergency shut-down procedures, and identified each vessel mean to shut down. The pre-transfer conference held should be recorded in the Logbook.
Confirmation at beginning of bunkering
  1. Has bunker requisition form given by the supplier had all information? (Specific gravity, Sulfur Content, Viscosity, Grade and Quantity etc.)
  2. Has the commence of the bunkering been notified to the watch keeping personnel in Deck department and announced on board?
  3. Is there any leakage from the hose connection?
  4. Is there any leakage from the bunkering-related line and valves?
  5. Has oil flow through the planned line been confirmed by listening to with the ear on the pipe?
  6. Is oil flowing into the prescribed tank? (Confirm the inflow by air blow, inflow noise, level change, and so on).
  7. Check the respective tank sounding manually and confirm.
  8. Has air blow through an air vent for the tank into which oil is to be supplied been confirmed?
  9. Is not there any change in level in the other tanks?
  10. Is continuous measurement kept until the inflow to the prescribed tank and the inflow rate are confirmed?
  11. Is oil supply rate proper?
  12. Has the time when the bunkering started been recorded?

Confirmation at tank changeover
  1. When valves were changed over, has it been confirmed not only by the indication on the remote control board but also on the spot (if possible)?
  2. Has oil inflow to the planned tanks been confirmed?
  3. Has air blow from air pipes been confirmed?
  4. Is not there any change in level in the other tanks?

Bunkering communication guide

Pre-bunker exchange of information between responsible persons on Ship & Barge/Facility:
  1. Prior to commencement of operation the following matters need to be confirmed with the oil supplier
  2. Have confirmation letters for oil leakage prevention been exchanged with the oil supplier? Have exchanged with the oil supplier? (Applicable in Japan)
  3. Have the Declaration of Inspection been properly filled in and signed after confirmation by the vessel and oil supplier? (Applicable in United States) and signed after confirmation by the vessel and oil supplier? (Applicable in United States)

Confirmation prior commencement & during bunkering
  1. Are portable fire hoses & fire-fighting equipment on Barge/Facility and ship are ready for immediate use.
  2. Are materials for containment and oil spill clean-up arrangement readily available for immediate use?
  3. (saw dust, oil absorbent, and oil-treating agent)
  4. Are the valves for the manifolds not in use (of the other side in particular) fully closed, and manifolds properly blanked?
  5. Are all the air vents of all tanks to be bunkered in good working condition and free from any restriction?
  6. Are drain plugs set to save all trays securely?
  7. Is there any sharp bend of the hose? Is weight of hose adequately supported so that hose weight should not come on hose itself?
  8. Is the transfer hose properly rigged and fully bolted with all bolts of correct size and length?
  9. Is electric power supply to the FO/LO/DO pumps shut, and is an indication On Bunkering. 'Do not Use posted?'
  10. bunkering manifold
    Always keep man standby near bunker manifold

  11. Have open/close position of valves been confirmed according to the check list (prepared by the vessel)? Has closure of all valves isolated from the bunkering been confirmed?
  12. Overboard valves connected to engine room bilges and bunker lines are closed and sealed?
  13. Are necessary signal flags and lights indicated?
  14. Is the lighting equipment for night work proper?
  15. Has the Supply Barge/Facility have adequate volume of oil to be supplied? (Confirm by Barge/Facilitys Tanks Sounding)
  16. Are oil fences extended? (If it is required).
  17. Are all personnel for the work in their positions?
  18. Has it been confirmed by a communication test that the communication means is properly secured?
  19. Are communication means with each part of the vessel secured?
  20. Has a communication test been made between the bunker station and the hose connection monitor?
  21. Is the sampling container fitted at point of transfer of Custody (Ships Manifold)?
  22. Is the sampling container sealed properly and have adequate space to collect required amount of sample?
  23. All cargo and bunker tank hatch lids are closed?
  24. Has MSDS for the bunker to be transferred been exchanged when requested?
  25. The Hazards associated with Toxic substances in the bunkers being handled have been identified and understood? H2S contents:____ Benzene Contents: ____
  26. Are safe means of access provided between ship and Supply Barge or Facility?
  27. Are all external doors and port holes in accommodation are closed?
  28. Is smoking area identified & restrictions are observed?
  29. Are all scupper plugs in place? Temporarily removed scuppers plugs will be monitored at all times?
  30. Drip trays are in positing on decks around connection and bunker tank vents? Are all the save all trays around the air vents clean and free from oil?
  31. Is the barge/ship properly moored and secured?
  32. Is a means of communication have established between the responsible officers on the vessel and the barge/Facility via VHF/UHF CH. Primary:______Back up:______? Emergency stop signal: established between both parties
  33. Is there any floating oil on the surface of the sea near the vessel?
  34. Are sea and weather conditions suitable for the bunkering work?
  35. All bunker tanks sounding to be checked manually and recorded @ an interval of not exceeding 30 mins
  36. There is an effective watch on board the barge and on the ship receiving bunkers? (a man should be always placed at manifold)
  37. Naked light regulations are being observed?

Confirmation at finally loaded tank and completion of bunkering
  1. Has the oil flow rate been dropped by notifying before the end of the bunkering?
  2. Has air blow through of the line been carried out very carefully considering tank overloading?
  3. Has remaining oil in the line been obliterated?
  4. Has the manifold gate valve been closed with the Chief Engineers permission?
  5. Has remaining oil in the line outside of the gate valve been obliterated?
  6. Cf.) It is prohibited to open the gate valve to remove remained oil without Chief Engineers permission.
  7. Have the tanks been sounded manually and confirmed the correct receipt of ordered quantity.
  8. Have the tanks been sounded, and has the refueled volume been confirmed by the vessel side?
  9. Have the all Sample been confirmed, including the sealing?
  10. Cf.) Samples included MARPOL sample, Retained Sample, Sample for Analysis, for the vessel, Retained sample by supplier
  11. Has the indication of the Sample been confirmed on labels? The date, port name, type of oil, quantity, name of the barge/jetty or the supplier, and the signature of both the parties.
  12. Have blind plate been securely fitted?
  13. Have oil fences been stored (if extended)?
  14. Has Bunker delivery note received have all the necessary information
  15. Have fire extinguishers and materials for outflow oil prevention and removal been returned to their storing positions?
  16. Have bunker barges left the vessel?
  17. Have signal flags been lowered?
  18. Has the completion of the bunkering work been announced on board the vessel?
  19. Have scupper plugs been removed and stored?
  20. Has the refueling line been restored to the normal conditions for the vessels use?
  21. Has the setting of FO/LO/DO transfer pumps been returned to the automatic mode?

Additionally for Tankers & Gas carriers:
  1. Are Main Radio transmitters earthed and Radar switched off?
  2. Are VHF / UHF transceiver and AIS changed over to correct (Lower) power mode or switched off?
  3. Is the oil flow pressure (oil supply volume) proper?
  4. Does the flow rate to the sampling container be properly adjusted so that sampling will continue till the time bunkering ends?
  5. If the vessel is provided with remote gauges, is the gauge board being monitored all the time?
  6. Is not there any change in level in the other tanks?
  7. Is not there any abnormality in trim and heel of the vessel?

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