Cargo Surveys – The Case Of The Benzene Bomber

John Konrad
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April 7, 2009

Photo By The MK Shop

With no universal certification of competency, improperly trained cargo surveyors can endanger themselves, the ship and its crew warns the latest podcast from Maritime Accident Casebook.

Based on the Isle of Man investigation into an explosion aboard a chemical tanker, Emilia Theresa, with a full cargo of benzene in January 2001, The Case Of The Benzene Bomber looks at what can happen when an unsupervised cargo surveyor uses the wrong sampling procedures aboard a ship carrying flammable or explosive cargo, with potentially disasterous results. The cargo surveyor was injured but there was no pollution and the resulting fire was extinguished in a few minutes.

Currently, there is no internationally mandatory requirement for certificate of competency for cargo surveyors or for companies providing cargo survey services to operate a competency management system. Maritime Accident Casebook tells us:

“This sort of accident is not common but the cost in lives, loss of ship or the release of pollutants in just one incident is potentially very high. Ship’s officers and crew have to be trained in procedures involving hazardous cargoes, and show proof of that training. There is an argument to say that the same should apply to cargo surveyors.”

The situation is made worse by low manning levels. In The Case Of The Benzene Bomber there was insufficient manpower to monitor the cargo surveyor as he worked, or even to provide a basic security presence at the ship’s gangway. Together with the lack of appropriate training for the cargo surveyor, this was a key factor in the incident.

“As with pilots, ship’s officers assume that a cargo surveyor knows how to do his job safely, especially if they are in an oil terminal like Emilia Theresa. Most of the time it’s a correct assumption, but when it’s wrong it can be very wrong.”

Like all Maritime Accident Casebook podcasts, The Case Of The Benzene Bomber looks at the lessons learned and gives hints and tips on how to avoid such incidents. Click HERE to listen now.

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