Emergency/Direct Bilge Suctions

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Big Pete
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Emergency/Direct Bilge Suctions

Postby Big Pete » Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:39 am

I have just had an email from an ex Cadet of mine, (see below) asking for details of padlocking Bilge valves.
As I am retired, I no longer have access to ship board copies of MARPOL and Solas and I was wondering if any of you who do have this access could provide up to date information on this topic? The company he sails with no longer provides a Hard Copy of these Books, instead it supplies the information on CD "Regs4ships" which is very difficult to search.
I thought the question raises a good point and was worth further discussion.

"Hi Peter,

Currently having a discussion with the Chief and he thinks I’ve put a valid point across but I need the evidence to back it up.

The direct bilge overboard Valve is locked shut which means it can only be operated after unlocking. This is good to prevent accidental discharge. However, in the event of flooding where the engine compartment is to be drained of water quickly it is a potential threat to the ships stability should you take time to find the key and unlock the Valve.

I suggested to use a weak link system with a unique number inscribed where in the event of emergency can be broken but under normal circumstances. This will serve as a ‘barrier’ to those wanting to open the Valve when it shouldn’t be.

Is there a regulation that backs up my argument that the overboard Valve should not be physically locked. Having problems locating it on the ‘regs4ships’ disk

Thanks for your help,

Cameron "

My understanding is that US Coastguard Rules require all Bilge overboard valves to be identified as such and padlocked locked shut from entering US Territorial Waters until leaving US waters and locking and unlocking the valves should be recorded in the E Log Book.

However, in the case of the Emergency or Direct Bilge suctions, or Direct Bilge Injection valves these are
often connected to Engine Cooling systems and the Bilge water would discharge overboard through the engine cooling water system and the overboard valves for that could not be locked shut!! So it would make sense to secure them shut and if the US Coastguard require the normal overboard discharge valves from the OWS, Bilge & GS pumps etc to be locked, why not the Emergency suctions?

However, as far as I know, there is no requirement to lock these valves OUTSIDE US Territorial waters, I can't remember MARPOL saying anything about this at all.

Personally I think many shipping companies order all Bilge overboard valves to be kept padlocked shut in order to prevent accidental discharges and prevent deliberate discharges by Junior members of the ER crew. It puts all responsibility for overboard discharges firmly on the key holder, usually the Chief, or on larger ships the Second, and absolves the shore side management of any responsibility. However we all know that a padlocked valve can usually be opened by removing the hand wheel, with the padlock and chain still attached, and then opening the valve with a shifter on the square at the end of the spindle. However, this is a matter of Company policy, which may not be the best option for shipboard safety.

I am not sure if SOLAS requires all the Bilge Pumping equipment to be immediatly operable, if it does that would would make padlocking Bilge Valves a contravention of SOLAS.

In my own experience I have sailed with Companies that required all the Bilge valves to be listed and secured shut with numbered seals, every time a valve was open, the seal would break and the reason, time and date recorded in a "Bilge Valve Seal Log Book" after the the Legal Bilge pumping operation was completed the valve would be closed and a new numbered seal secured to the valve and the number time and date recorded in the Log Book. Every week the seals were checked for damage and any damaged ones replaced and this also was recorded in the Log.

If the ship is flooding and the water level in the engine room can not be controlled in any other way, the Captain and Chief Engineer can authorise the direct discharge of the ER Bilge Water overboard by any and all available means, this would not usually be agreed unless the Bilge level was threatening the stability of the ship or endangering Electrical Equipment and essential services, and the Oily Water separator was already unable to hold the Bilge level and initial efforts to stop the flooding had failed.

What does everyone else think? I am sure JK and JJ will have some thoughts on this.

Keep your feet dry everyone.
It is always better to ask a stupid question than to do a stupid thing.

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Re: Emergency/Direct Bilge Suctions

Postby JK » Tue Mar 13, 2018 4:35 pm

I had a very quick look at SOLAS and didn’t see anything specific. It might be there though. The ships i am familiar with, used the engine driven pumps for direct bilge suction, or a submersible bilge pump with remote valve operations, or tank/ bilge operations.
It really does show where the CEs are, with being held responsible and huge fines. for any AHole pumping overboard in the middle of the night and the safety of the ship and crew.
I do like the seals approach though

I left the ships 20+ years ago, and valves were never chained and to this day they still aren’t chained shut. If I get a chance between shoveling snow in the AM, I’ll see if I can find my copies of assorted regs and rules and have a look.

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Re: Emergency/Direct Bilge Suctions

Postby JollyJack » Wed Mar 14, 2018 8:52 pm

It is not an offence to discharge oily water in an emergency. If the bilge flooded after grounding, or the Old Man playing bumper boats, that big red handwheel which operates the emergency bilge valve is opened toot sweet, Chief or Captain notwithstanding. I'd rather apologise than swim out of a flooded engine room. That bilge valve is connected to the largest capacity pump in the engine room to get rid of the water ASAP. (Heads up, that scenario is an examination in PPS level 2.) This happened to me once during the so-called "storm of the century" when the Andrea Gale was lost. I was on a tanker from Boston to Come By Chance when the seabay vent pipe popped off, before the seabay valve. You can imagine the poor old 2nd (me) in the bilge trying to control a jet of ice cold water under the plates. Lotsa fun!
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Re: Emergency/Direct Bilge Suctions

Postby The Dieselduck » Fri Mar 16, 2018 6:03 pm

Like Big Pete, my experience has been a seal on various OB valves, with a log of the seal number. It would be taken off for monthly exercising, but other wise the seal stayed on and a record of its handling kept. This was brought up once by Class in inspections, without any blow back that I can remember.

My last ship, we just locked it with a small padlock and the key was nearby. But it was clear that as CE I was the only one to operate the OWS.

On cruise ships, RCCL had a dedicated Second Engineer (Environmental) who looked after all the bilge and waste operations, and was the keeper of the ORB, keys to associated equipment. The bilges would be pumped into settling tank, then cascade into another tank. That tanks would then be processed by the OWS / OCM into a holding tank. Then, when meeting discharge regs, and only then, would the Second open up the locked cage around the second OCM, near the ob valve, and pumped out the holding tank.

I see that P&I club suggest drilling one flange bolts, and valve stems (pete!) and place a seal there, to minimize the magic pipe action. I find it a bit extreme, but I guess it is needed to some degree. I think the real problem was always tricking the OCM using the flush valve, but nowadays there are some pretty resistant valve that are used. But anytime you play around with this system, you are going to be playing against the house.

All these pollution prevention tactics are rather moot now. Just don't do it. Right now you don't need a locks, or seal, drill anything; the new prevention device is the crew. If you're doing something stupid your crew mate have some pretty serious motivation to tell on you, by the awarding of funds from fines levied in successful prosecutions. So the moral of the story, just keep the bilge OB valve closed but ready to go in an emergency, as the rest of the prevention stuff is just a confidence game, and be nice to your crew.
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Re: Emergency/Direct Bilge Suctions

Postby Merlyn » Sat Mar 17, 2018 1:44 pm

Reading D.D.'s write up I have to say it doesn't seem to be any where as much fun down below as in the old days.
Best of luck to the new entrants to the so much different trade.
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Re: Emergency/Direct Bilge Suctions

Postby PerpetualQuickFixes » Thu Aug 02, 2018 4:28 pm

I've only ever seen weak link sealed valves and a completely unsealed bilge ejection valve. This is for ships that very regularly trade in the US.

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