Vessels on passage to some European ports are increasingly being requested by charterers to divert to an intermediate port to remove fumigants from the cargo holds prior to the final discharge port.
According to North Club, this mostly concerns vessels carrying Ukrainian and South American grains heading to the Dutch discharge ports of Rotterdam or Amsterdam.
In these cases, charterers have requested the vessel divert to Cadiz, giving the reason that they wish to remove the fumigants to avoid delays due to strict requirements at the discharge port.
Some European countries, such as the Netherlands, do indeed have strict requirements on fumigant gases levels in the holds. These requirements must be met before allowing discharge of cargo.
On arrival (typically at anchor), appointed chemists will measure the amount of residual fumigant gas remaining in the holds. This must be less than 1 part per million (ppm) to allow discharge to commence.
If found to be 1ppm or greater, the vessel must remain at anchor, ventilating where possible to lower the fumigant gas level to less than 1ppm. North’s correspondent in the Netherlands, Dutch P&I Correspondents, report this has in some cases taken up to three weeks.
To avoid the potential for delays at the discharge port, charterers are requesting the fumigation sleeves be removed earlier, to allow the holds to be ventilated for the remaining passage and to increase the chances of residual fumigant gases being less than 1ppm at time of discharge.
It is also reported that when measuring the residual gas levels in the holds and on deck, some authorities request the gas monitoring records taken on passage, as described in the IMSBC Code section 3.6.
On occasion, these records have been found to be poor or not completed, leading to further delays and the potential for fines.
If requested to call at an intermediate port for the removal of fumigant sleeves, operators should consider:
- Do the fumigation instructions from the load port require ‘full voyage’ fumigation?
- Has the vessel completed the fumigation period as instructed by the fumigation company?
- What are the written instructions from the charterer regarding fumigation and ventilation?
- Is the charterer providing a qualified reputable fumigation company to remove the waste?
When removing fumigants at an intermediate port, operators should consider:
- Break the hatch cover seals, taking photographs that identify the hold and show both the old seal number and the new seal number which is placed upon completion.
- The fumigation company at the intermediate port should check the gas levels in the holds prior to entry and throughout entry to confirm that a safe atmosphere exists.
- The hatches should not remain open for long periods of time; try and keep exposure to the cargo down to 30 minutes or less to prevent allegations of re-infestation.
- Take photographic or video evidence of the full operation.
- If high gas levels are detected, the affected areas should be properly marked as such and guarded against entry.
- Will the weather on the voyage to the discharge port allow for adequate ventilation?
- The crew should maintain accurate ventilation records for the entire passage.
- Throughout the voyage, maintain accurate records of the gas levels on board as per the IMSBC Code section 3.6.
Note that there are no guarantees that the fumigant gas levels will be less than 1ppm on arrival at the discharge port, even when the fumigants are removed at an earlier point in time, North Club warns.
The instruction to divert the vessel to allow the removal of fumigants at an intermediate port will usually come from the charterer as a result of a commercial decision by them to attempt to prevent delays at the discharge port which would be for their account.
Such a diversion is, however, likely to constitute a deviation under the bill of lading contact which could result in a loss of P&I cover for the carrier.