Expert Risk Articles

Condition-based maintenance and cargo weighing regulations

Improving maintenance scheduling and developing maintenance strategies is a big need in the maritime industry, which would replace traditional planned maintenance based upon predefined intervals, although crew stress may be a result of improvements. Together with new container weighing regulations that take effect on July 1, 2016, such issues stand to improve how ships run and how ship stability is calculated. AGCS experts “weigh-in” on both topics.

Condition Based Maintenance

Condition-based maintenance: Benefits and concerns

There is rising interest in a maintenance strategy that promises to spot upcoming equipment failures so maintenance can be proactively scheduled when it is needed. As a process, condition-based maintenance (CBM) monitors the actual condition of an asset to decide what maintenance needs to be done. That maintenance only needs to be performed when certain indicators show signs of decreasing performance or upcoming failure. This contrasts with traditional planned scheduled maintenance, where maintenance is performed based upon predefined scheduled intervals. The upside of this process is that the time between maintenance repairs can be extended as it is only done on an as-needed basis.

But while this process can offer significant cost savings for ship operators, owners should be aware that employing condition-based maintenance can place undue pressure on crews that could be suffering from fatigue or inadequate training. This is akin to “allowing the crew to put band aids on the ship”, says Captain Andrew Kinsey, Senior Marine Risk Consultant at AGCS, which could lead to serious safety consequences in the future.

“The disadvantage of CBM is that the machinery in question needs to be monitored very accurately. If not, we run the risk of a potential fault going undetected and resulting in a major breakdown, especially in case of fatigue and uniform wear failures,” adds Global Head of Marine Risk Consulting, Rahul Khanna.

Readiness for container weighing regulations

Containers go through weighing process

A large part of the industry appears to be far from being ready to comply with new container weighing regulations. Photo: Shutterstock

It has long been recognized that the weights of containers have been routinely mis- or under-declared and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has been working to improve this fundamental threat to ship stability. Since 2011, the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee has been studying measures to prevent the loss of containers, which led to the adoption of an amendment to SOLAS regulation VI/2 requiring the mandatory verification of the gross mass of packed containers[i].

The new ruling comes into force in July 1, 2016 and promises to fundamentally improve the stability calculations of ships. After that date, shippers will be responsible for providing the verified weight by stating it in shipping documents and submitting it to the master or their representative, and to the terminal representative sufficiently in advance to be used in the preparation of the ship stowage plan. Additionally, supplying the verified gross mass will be a condition for loading a packed container onto a ship.

However, despite the long lead time, the European Shipper’s Council has criticized a lack of international harmonization, stating that only a handful of countries have published national regulations for the weighing of containers[ii].

Shippers are being caught by surprise by these regulations. “That is shocking,” says Khanna. “It’s critical that we get this right in 2016. A large part of the industry still seems to be far from being ready to comply with this regulation. We cannot afford to have this important safety improvement remain ineffective due to partial implementation.”