Friday, December 27, 2013

Real Life Accident: Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) Gas Almost Kills Crew Members On Ship

November 1, 2013 By MARS Reports

A chemical tanker was instructed to load 2000 tonnes of crude sulphate turpentine (CST), a Category X cargo under MARPOL Annex II. The cargo was to be discharged to another tanker via a ship-to-ship (StS) transfer at a receiving terminal. Although there were several experienced crew members on board, none of them had any previous experience of this cargo, or knew about its associated hazards. The ship’s Safety Management System (SMS), Procedures and Arrangements (P&A) Manual, cargo checklists and procedures were all followed, despite there being no information on this specific cargo.

Prior to arrival, a briefing was conducted by the chief officer. The material safety data sheets (MSDS), were not available at the time. Accordingly, the hazards of the cargo (toxicity of hydrogen sulphide (H2S), organo-sulphides and mercaptans) were not properly discussed. On arrival, the shipper handed the vessel a cargo-specific MSDS. The ship’s manager also supplied a generic MSDS which did not mention H2S. Because of the delayed and incomplete information from a large number of sources, the crew remained largely ignorant of the dangers of the cargo. The receiving STS ship, the terminal staff and even the cargo surveyor, who also obtained a generic MSDS from the internet, were also largely unaware of the dangers. Although there was a week’s delay in the transfer operation, information on hazards was not updated among the parties because everyone thought they had the correct data. As a result, the surveyor used a respirator filter that was ineffective against H2S vapours. The accompanying seaman, who opened the tank’s Butterworth hatch (see Figure 1), was not protected. He did not query why the surveyor was wearing a respirator and yet he was not.

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