ATSB: Cement Carrier Suffered Water Ingress as Valves Stayed Open

The Australia-flagged cement carrier Goliath suffered water ingress in its steering gear compartment off Tasmania in early March 2018 after requested valve closures were not actioned, a report by Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) found.

Illustration. Image Courtesy: Pxhere under CC0 Creative Commons license

The 15,539 dwt vessel encountered the issue while conducting a planned ballast water exchange operation. At the time, the ship was underway in the Bass Strait, sailing from Melbourne, Victoria to Devonport, Tasmania.

During the operation, the ship’s third mate contacted the duty IR and asked that the two after peak manually operated valves be closed. For reasons that could not be determined, the requested valve closures were not actioned.

The third mate did not confirm with the IR that the message had been received and actioned so he was unaware that the valves connecting the after peak tank to the starboard ballast main had not been closed. This led to undetected filling of the after peak tank during subsequent ballasting operations.

The ATSB report showed that the after peak tank filled to a level sufficient for water to leak into the holed scupper line within the tank and drain into the steering gear room bilge well. This overflowed and flooded the steering gear room.

There was no structured or formalised system of logging or tracking the status of ballast system manually operated valves. Thus, when closure of the after peak valves was not actioned or confirmed, there was no record at the ballast control panel to show the status of the valves, ATSB added.

Shortly thereafter, an engine room alarm activated and the first engineer responded. The first engineer discovered water coming from a scupper pipe in the steering gear room, which drained into the steering flat bilge well. Investigations then found water coming up the drain in the CO2 room due to a holed scupper pipe running through the after peak tank.

The tank was rarely filled to a depth which covered the holed section of pipe. However, when the starboard ballast tank was pressed up to overflowing, the open valves to the after peak tank allowed it to also fill. As the tank neared full, water covered the hole in the pipe, drained into the steering gear room bilge well and overflowed.

A condition of class was placed on the ship until suitable repairs had been completed. In the meantime, any ballasting was to be completed with additional monitoring of this area of the ship and tank levels.

Procedures were amended to require the duty officer to keep a log of all manual valve operations and ballasting of the after peak tank was to be conducted only during daylight hours. In addition, a status tracking board was made for the manual valves with moveable pegs to be used to show the status of each valve.

Initial repairs involving renewal of the CO2 room drain line (about 7.5 m), deck and bulkhead penetrations were completed on March 10. Final repairs, survey and testing were completed on March 18 and the condition of class was lifted.

As a result of this occurrence, CSL Australia has advised the ATSB that further to the immediate actions referred to earlier, the following safety actions have also been taken.