•    A ship is declared fit for loading provided ALL holds - which will receive cargo - meet the requirements of the charter party.

Under no circumstances accept a ship with unsuitable holds as fit to receive a cargo against the cover of a letter of guarantee issued by the shippers of charterers.

  Hold inspection – step by step

a)    before starting the inspection, go to the master to learn what were his last cargoes and how the ship was cleaned;
b)    check and record De-Rat certificate - valid for 6 months from the date of issue;
c)    climb down into each hold as defects cannot be seen if you are standing on the deck looking down into the hold;
d)    cleanliness inspection should ideally be made in the day light with the hatch covers fully open, but even then, take a torch with you to inspect dark and hidden spots.
e)    do not forget a scraper or pocket knife to determine if rust scale is loose and a sample bag to collect remnants or samples of unknown substances.

        The holds must be examined for:

•    Previous cargo:
If the holds contain the remnants of previous cargoes, loose cement, rust chips, paint chips, infestation, etc., declare the ship unfit for loading. Particular attention should be given to the cleanliness of the underside of steel hatch covers, horizontal flanges of under deck beams, stringers or horizontal stiffeners, and the flanges of portable hatch beams.

•    Rust scale and paint scale:
Rust scale and paint scale must be checked to see if they could become loose and contaminate the cargo. Loose scale will break when struck with the fist or when light pressure is applied with knife blade under the edge of the scale.

•    Dry
If the holds contain standing or free water, puddles, or any amount of leaking water, declare the ship unfit for loading. Condensation, commonly called ‘sweating’ can form on the bulkheads or lower decks. This is unavoidable and poses no threat to the cargo. But check this closely, a water leak will sometimes resemble condensation. All holds should be dried before loading.

•    Water-tightness
The main deck hatch covers must be inspected for possible ingress of water to hold compartments, and if necessary hose tested, chalk tested or ultrasonically tested.

•    Bilges
    Bilge’s should be clean and dry and ‘graintight’. The manholes must be covered with jute or as stipulated in the charter party.

As the hatches are open when the holds are inspected, the hatch covers are often missed by surveyors, and a considerable quantity of residual cargo can often be found in the beams under the covers. If there is any rust in the hold, there will almost certainly be some under the hatch covers. It is usually difficult to inspect the covers, especially those that roll up, or have more than one leaf so if a surveyor is in any doubt whether the hatch covers require cleaning or not, he should have the hatch closed with force. On re-opening the hatches it will readily seen if the hatch covers require cleaning, for if they do, residual cargo and/or rust will have been shaken off, and will have fallen onto the tank top.

  U.S. National Cargo Bureau recommendations.

    The following suggestions are offered for inspectors/surveyors of ships carrying grain cargoes:

CLEANLINESS. It is essential that all spaces intended for grain are thoroughly clean, free of odour, free of loose rust and raint scale, and in every respect fit to receive grain. This means that the holds must be swept, washed (if necessary), and dried. Particular care must be taken to clean overhead beams and ledges. Bilges and/or drain wells must be cleaned and then sealed with burlap or other suitable material, which is grain-tight but not watertight. Bilge sections and sounding pipes must be clear. Twin deck scuppers must be made grain-tight. That compartments be completely dry cannot be overstressed. This is especially applicable to wooden structures such as ceiling landing pads, bilge limber boards and grain fittings. Green lumber may cause dampness in grain fittings and should be avoided.

INFESTATION. A thorough inspection of the grain compartments should be made for any signs of insect or rodent infestation. This applies particularly to vessels, which have previously carried grain cargoes. Any indication of infestation will be cause for rejection by government inspectors or the representatives who will then require fumigation or extermination prior to acceptance.

STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY. Cargo compartments shall be structurally sound. Cement boxes over holes or cracks affection the watertight integrity are not permitted. Bulkheads below the main deck shall be watertight. Manholes on double bottom tanks under grain holds should be inspected for tightness, and, if necessary, the tanks should be tested by pressing up. Weather deck hatch covers should be inspected for water tightness and, if necessary, hose tested.

SHEATHING OF HOT BULKHEADS. Fire-room and engine room bulkheads which are subject to temperatures of 100 0 F. (43.30C.) or above and are adjacent to holds in which bulk corn, soybeans, milo, sorghum, maize or rice are stowed, shall be sheathed. Sheathing shall also be required whenever bulk grain of any type is stowed adjacent to the bulkhead of a tank in which a heated liquid is carried.

•    This is of the utmost importance when oil seeds are to be loaded.  Be aware that oil seeds are liable to spontaneous combustion if shipped wet.

DEEP TANKS. When grain is to be loaded in deep tanks, the ballast filling lines and heating coil lines shall be blanked in the tanks or in the engine room. Where deep tanks are not fitted with drain wells or covered bilges, the bilge suctions shall be adequately boxed.

WING TANKS. When grain is to be loaded into wing tanks, precautions should be taken against the entree of water through ballast filling lines, overboard discharge valves, deck vents, deck manholes and any other openings. Ballasting of wing tanks is to be avoided when grain is carried in the center holds.

      ELECTRICAL WIRING. Electrical wiring in grain compartments shall be disconnected or diffused.

TRIMMING. The grain regulations are predicated on cargo spaces being as full as possible and well trimmed. Constant supervision and inspection by ship’s officers is required to ensure that this is done. Proper trimming can be ascertained by frequent sighting through trimming hatches and access manholes. When loading dusty cargoes, it may be necessary to interrupt loading periodically to allow the dust to settle sufficiently to inspect the trimming. When trimming machines are used, the throwing distance should be kept to a minimum. Poor trimming is difficult and expensive to correct.

TRIMMING HATCHES. When tween decks and lower holds are loaded in combination, trimming hatches and access manholes shall be left open. When between decks and lower holds are loaded separately, these openings must be closed.

SECURING OF TWEEN DECKS. When tween decks are secured by means of bundles or strapping, the tween deck must be sealed to prevent the settling of grain into the compartment below.

SECURING HATCH COVERS OF FILLED COMPARTMENTS. If there is no bulk grain or other cargo above a filled compartments the hatch covers shall be secured in an approved manner having regard to the weight of the covers and permanent arrangement provided for securing such covers.

ELECTRICAL FIRES. Serious fires in grain cargoes can be caused by faulty electrical circuits in cargo compartments and by leaving portable cargo lights unattended in grain compartments. All electrical circuits in grain compartments must be disconnected or defused and portable lights must be removed when not in use.

  Hold inspection at time of discharge

On opening hatches, condition of cargo should be visually established to ascertain if any damage or deterioration has occurred during voyage.

Prior discharge the surface of the cargo to be examined as accessible for being clean, dry, without smell and free of infestation. The use of a 2-meter probe is recommended.

Upon completion of discharge all holds to be examined for being empty of all cargo and any spillage is collected or accounted for.

       Hold Inspection Bill at Discharge to be issued twice before and after discharge and signed by the master.


•    If surveyors started scrutinizing hold compartments through magnifying glasses, very few ships would leave their berths; if surveyors are too indulgent, they expose themselves to claims.

•    The basic rule of thumb for a ship’s hold inspection is common sense, this is to say that the condition of the holds must be such that they do not present a threat to the cargo to arrive in a deteriorated condition or become the subject of a commercial claim.
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