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Container ship meeting with heavy weather - Seaworthiness at sea

The risks associated with containerized cargo are generally brought into sharp focus if the carrying vessel encounters Heavy weather conditions or if the vessel routing heightens the impact of the weather on the ship and cargo. Stoppage of the main engine in heavy weather conditions could result in violent rolling, pitching and heaving motion of the vessel, highly stressing cargo securing equipment on deck. This may result in failure of cargo securing equipment and consequent loss of deck cargo containers overboard. Safety permitting shall be done more frequently if the vessel is encountering heavy weather or lashings are found loosening frequently due to the effect of ship motion.

In heavy weather conditions where it is unsafe for ship crew to venture out on the deck for purposes of checking deck cargo securing, Master shall consider his ship handling options and heave to if required. The aim should be ensuring the safety of the vessel and its cargo.

Container ship laden voyage
Oil Tanker Safety Guide
Seaworthiness at sea

The owner must provide a seaworthy vessel (i.e., a vessel that is technically seaworthy, cargo-worthy Moreover, fit for the intended voyage) before the voyage commences is absolute. The common law recognizes that the merchant ship which is watertight in all weather conditions has not yet been built, since even the most well-found vessel will contort in a seaway, allowing water to penetrate the hatch cover seals, etc. Therefore, owners cannot guarantee the seaworthiness of their vessels after leaving port, when they become subject to various perils of the sea.

The requirements of the common law, as modified by Article III(1) of the Hague and Hague-Visby Rules, will be met if, at the time the vessel left her berth, she was in a seaworthy condition as far as could be ascertained by the exercise of due diligence (i.e., the reasonably careful inspection) by the owner, Master and officers to see that she was ready for sea.

The Hamburg Rules do not expressly mention seaworthiness or an obligation to exercise due diligence. However, the carrier’s obligation under Article 5(1) to prove that he, his servants, and his agents took all measures which could reasonably be required to avoid the occurrence. Its consequences would appear to impose an obligation to exercise due diligence at all stages of the voyage.

container ship in heavy weather conditions
Fig: container ship in heavy weather conditions

A merchant ship would probably be deemed unseaworthy in law if she proceeded on a voyage without: Provided the vessel departs on her voyage in a seaworthy condition , she will normally remain covered by her insurers throughout the voyage to the next port, even when, technically, her seaworthiness may have been compromised by some accident, e.g. heavy weather damage or seawater shipped in heavy seas. The vessel would not be covered on her next voyage (or leg of the voyage), however, if she left the next port of call without her seaworthiness being restored.

Cargo at Sea - Routine observations and checks by the Chief Officer

The Chief Officer must personally perform daily inspections on the deck, and it holds to inspect the lashing condition of the containers. He must immediately report anything abnormal to the Master. He must also ensure that no work or action is undertaken on deck without his approval.

Lashing Control

The Chief Officer must ensure that, before sailing, all lashings are as per cargo securing manual. During navigation, the Chief Officer must ensure that the lashing systems are inspected thoroughly at least daily (Weather Permitting), and they are retightened, as necessary. He must also ensure that nobody performs any adjustment to the lashing without his instruction. This inspection is to be recorded in the logbook together with any comments or corrective actions taken.

Reefer containers (temperature control)

The temperature of reefer containers and their proper functioning must be checked daily by the Chief Officer unless more frequent inspections have been requested by the Charterers. Any defects are to be reported to the Chief Engineer.

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