On tanker vessels the most common and expensive claims are shortage, contamination and off-specification.
Whilst tanker vessels may have the lowest frequency of cargo claims, when they happen they are costly as the average contamination claim cost is about USD 100,000.
The crucial point is the requirement for a thorough and adequate cleaning of tanks, pumps and lines. The extent of cleaning has to be seen in relation to the cargo previously carried and that to be loaded. The carrier is not absolved from liability if the tanks have been inspected and approved by the shipper’s or the charterer’s surveyor even if the charterparty contains a stipulation to that effect. On the other hand, the shipper’s advice should be sought regarding the cleaning standard and procedure required as the shipper is the party best placed to know the requirements of his own cargo to be carried.
Prior loading, a Tank Clean Certificate should be obtained from a surveyor. At commencement of loading, samples should be taken by the crew at the vessel’s manifold or where the shore installation piping system ends. First foot samples should be taken and analysed before the loading is allowed to continue. Upon completion of loading, samples should be taken by the crew from all tanks. Depending on the cargo’s composition, it may be necessary to take samples at different levels in the tanks.
In the discharge port, it is strongly recommended that the vessel’s crew takes samples from each tank before the discharge operation commences. In addition, the crew should take samples at the vessel's manifold at commencement of discharge of each parcel.
Requests to co-mingle or blend oil cargoes usually come from charterers or shippers. This procedure is potentially complicated and can expose the shipowner to very large claims for off-spec cargo at the port of destination. It can also jeopardise the P&I cover. One has to keep in mind that the Master and his crew have no scientific knowledge of inherent characteristics of chemicals or other oil products. Should it prove necessary, it is of utmost importance that the shipowner and Master consult specialists in this field on loading, with the assistance of The Swedish Club. When accepting to co-mingle of blend cargo it is essential that the Master:
- Clauses the bill of lading accordingly.
- Takes samples.
There are also many interpretations as to what actually constitutes blending/co-mingling. In addition the Club recommends that Members request a Letter of Indemnity from shippers or charterers.