1. Preparing for the Vetting Inspection
The onboard inspection can only be successful if the tanker is prepared for the inspection. The inspector who is to carry out the inspection will start to collect impressions from even before the time he takes his first step onto the gangway and will continue to do so until he takes the last step off the gangway when leaving the tanker after completing the inspection.
Almost all inspectors are former seafarers who from both deck and engine room experience are able to assess a tanker. Most likely the first impression formed from the time the tanker is sighted until the inspector’s arrival at the Master’s cabin will be the strongest, although it will be subjective at this point. The inspectors will undertake the inspection of the tanker looking for objective criteria by which to judge the tanker. It is a fact of life that, however subconscious the urge may be, the inspector will look for objective evidence to support his initial subjective opinion. Thus the importance of the route from ship side to Master’s cabin should not be underestimated. Remember you do not get a second chance to make a first impression.
Make sure that the inspection is scheduled at a convenient time for the vessel, so it does not conflict with other inspections or similar matters. This could easily be arranged through the port agent.
Make sure that each head of department has completed his own inspection before arrival at port and that any deficiencies have been reported / corrected. This should be incorporated into the normal routine guidelines.
An effective way of administering this is to introduce a Self-Assessment form covering the relevant areas.
The next layer in this table is the delegation given to petty officers and in turn, to the rest of the crew, this will achieve an understanding all the way down through the ranks.
Prior to the inspection preparations can be made in certain areas
The inspector may need to have a copy of the following:
· Classification Document
· Certificate of Registry
· Cargo Ship Safety Construction Certificate
· Cargo Ship Safety Equipment Certificate
· Safety Radiotelegraphy Certificate
· Load Line Certificate
· IMO Certificate of Fitness
· IOPP Certificate & Supplement
· Certificate of Financial Responsibility
· A Crew List
· A Drawing of the vessel’s cargo tank arrangement
· Vessel’s Safe Manning Document
The following should be available for Inspection (some are not applicable to all vessels):
Masters should lay out the certificates in the same order as they appear in the VPQ/VIQ. This saves time and creates a good impression of ordered preparation.
· Officer’s Licenses
· Health Certificates
· P&A Manual
· Approved COW Manual
· Approved Ballast Manual
· Oil / Cargo record book
· Oil transfer procedures
· Garbage log for compliance with MARPOL Annex V
· Proof of cargo hose / piping testing
· Proof of fixed and portable fire fighting equipment servicing
· Proof of professional servicing of breathing apparatus
· Proof of life raft servicing
· Settings for vessel’s PV valves
· Shipping document and cargo manifest
· Certificate of inhabitation or stabilization of cargo
· Declaration of Inspection if transferring bunkers
· Cargo Information Cards for the cargo on board
· Inert Gas Manual
· Waiver Letters, if any
· Vessel Response Plan
· Safety Manual
· Vessel Operation Manual
· Company’s policy for upgrading and training.
Be prepared to calibrate and / or demonstrate the proper operation of:
· Combustible gas detectors or fixed gas detection system
· Oxygen analyser
· Toxic gas detector
· Overboard discharge monitor
· Cargo pump Emergency shutdown and bearing alarms
· High level alarms
· Overfill alarms
· Quick closing valves
Be prepared to demonstrate the proper operation of the following systems/alarms:
· Inert Gas system alarms
· Oily water separator
· Fire fighting systems
· Steering gear
· Emergency generator
· Engine room ventilation shutdowns
· Fuel oil cut-off valve
In addition, the following items may be checked and should be ready:
· Firemen’s outfits
· International shore connection
· Navigation equipment
· Charts, publications, and corrections
· EPIRB, pyrotechnics and hydrostatic releases
· Flame screens, bunker tanks
· Suitable paint locker
· Marine sanitation device
Reference should also be made to the particular requirements of the oil major inspecting the vessel. The following items are of vital importance as these provide an overall impression of the vessel, and will play an essential part in how the inspection will be conducted.
a. Gangway: Correctly arranged – is the gangway net rigged? Is there a life ring nearby?
b. Signs: All warning signs posted
c. Crew: All crew working on deck should have hard hats and the necessary protection gear.
d. Deck Watch: Is he present in the area? Hard hat, emergency equipment handy, necessary for cargo loading / discharging; walkie-talkie; ask the inspector who he is and who he wants to see; confirm with Duty Officer that this is OK. One crew member should follow the inspector to the ship office
e. Fire Equipment at the Manifold: Correctly rigged and present
f. Deck: Clean, free of oil / water and obstructions
g. Scuppers: Blocked, emergency pump in position and discharge connected
h. Cargo Information: Make sure that all personel involved in the cargo operation are briefed regarding what cargoes are being loaded / discharged, particularly the deck watch. All MSDS to be up and easily readable
i. Emergency Equipment: Working, present and clearly marked
j. Moorings: In good order, no lines on the winch ends
k. Accomodation: All doors closed, clean, and in proper order
2. The Inspection
You do not pass or fail a vetting inspection!
However you can be well prepared, make sure that the inspector is accompanied on the vessel during the inspection. The best people to do this would be the Master, Chief Engineer, Chief Officer and the First Assistant Engineer (Second Engineer), who can divide the areas of inspection amongst themselves.
Normally, the inspector will start by checking all certificates and documentation with the Master. He will then move into the areas listed opposite. However, it must be remembered that the order and schedule of the inspection can be changed to achieve less disturbance to the normal operations onboard. The inspector will have a pre-planned inspection format, which he will wish to follow, though there is nothing to stop different sections being done in a different order. With the new OCIMF VPQ, much of the date referring to the tanker will have been completed in advance. Make sure that you have a completed up-to-date copy available for the inspector as this will save much time.
Some of the most common deficiencies found in the following areas:
Bridge and Radio Room
· Passage plan only pilot to pilot. Ensure that the filed passage plan covers berth to berth navigation
· Missing publications or old editions onboard when new publications have been issued
· Missing Master’s standing orders and night order book
· No logs for gyro error
· No entry of position on the navigation chart during transit of pilotage to berth
· Chart corrections not logged correctly
Cargo Control Room and Tank Deck
· No cargo / ballast plan available
· Hydraulic leaks on deck
· Officers and ratings not wearing hard hats on deck
· No screens inside the vents for the ballast tanks
· No calibration gas for gas detection instruments
· Crew not wearing personal protection gear
· No policy for entering tanks
Engine Room and Steering Gear
· No procedures or instructions posted for foam system
· Emergency steering procedures not posted properly in steering gear room
· Hot work procedures not used or not present in the manuals
· No safety guidelines available for engine room / workshop welding equipment
· No eye protection warning notices posted for engine workshop machinery
· No clean goggles by grinders and lathes
Accommodation / Galley
· Overhead ventilation greasy – fire hazard
· Accommodation ventilators with no identification labels
It is worth mentioning the ISPS/MTSA code in this context, as it is important to be aware that whilst certain parts of the ships “may” for whatever reason be secured areas this should not stop the vetting inspector from been given access to these areas but the inspector should be accompanied by a member of the ships staff.
3. The Close Out Meeting
All inspectors should sit down and discuss observations and comments after the inspection is completed. If not, the Master should record a written objection that this has not taken place and inform his company immediately
The inspector gives the Master a written list of the observations found.
· Correct all observations as soon as possible
· Send the report to the head office or department in charge
· Complete the Inspector Feedback Form and send it together with the report (a copy is to be found at the back of this booklet)
The Master must demand a copy of these findings in writing so that should there be a change between what is said in the Master’s cabin and what appears in the report, this can be taken up later by the company ashore.
When the Inspector is discussing with the Master the issues that he has found, it is quite often possible that there has been a misunderstanding or that the Inspector has become confused with another ship that he has recently done. At this point in time, it is relatively easy for such an error to be cleared up and the Master should take every step to achieve this. In addition, the Master should not feel intimidated by the inspector; this is of course easier said than done, particularly if the Master feels that he has less English skills than the Inspector in front of him. It is unlikely that the Master will be able to get the Inspector to delete a finding or an observation, even if it has been fixed, (though this should be included in the report). On the other hand, he should be able to get additional comments added which mitigate the finding or explain why it is the case.
As an example, the Inspector may find that there is a large bubble in the magnetic compass. The Master, (if it is the case), should point out to the Inspector that he already aware of this, that he has already ordered a new compass, that he has the requisition number and it is due to be delivered in the Port later on today, or whatever is the example that you choose to use. Certainly this would then turn an observation into an utterly reasonable state of affairs from one that might be considered rather more serious if it was not followed up properly by the Master.
4. Owners Comments (One of the most important aspects)
When the vetting inspector leaves the gangway, the vessel inspection is finished; however, it’s now that the screening process begins and the owners reply to any comments deficiencies raised play a very large part in this screening process.
What the charterer is looking for are quality replies to the comments raised that indicate the comments are taken seriously by the owner – these replies will be used as a measure of the owners quality management. This process is going to be measured by the vetting manager’s subjective assessment of the quality of the owner’s replies to comments about his ship’s latest inspection.
Many, otherwise acceptable vessels do not pass this part of the vetting process because the owner’s replies to the vetting inspection do not provide “closure” of the indicated conditions and this results in the “approval” either been delayed or denied.
It is important that the owner sends replies that show, acceptance and respect for the system, that the owner has an active Safety Management System in place that takes every deficiency seriously. The owners reply should be able to identify the “root cause” of the deficiency and actually addresses the real cause of the deficiency. It should the necessary changes to existing operationg procedures that are necessary to reduce the chance of the deficiency occurring again.
Some examples of replies that do “not” do this are, “The deficiency has been rectified”, “the deficiency will be rectified at the earliest opportunity”, “we have instructed the Master to not do it again”, “The spare part have been ordered”,
To indicate that you have an effective system in place it is necessary to take care of the deficiency within the ISM system, for example identify and the non-conformity within the ISM system, establish the root cause, and establish effective corrective action, this should then be implemented and the necessary changes to existing procedures made. The deficiency then becomes effectively closed out.
It is not sufficient to say the deficiency is fixed, you need to explain that the problem that caused the deficiency is also fixed.
5. The Screening Process
Having been through all the items mentioned so far this is still not the end of the process. In addition to the vetting inspection, submitting shining examples of Owners comments. The charterer will also assess and review many other aspects of your operation as well, such as other vessels in your fleet, the vessels incident history, feedback from the charterers terminals, the quality of the owner, detention history, any previous problems with clearance of the vessel, inspection history of the vessel, the age of the vessel, crew quality, the management system in place, general industry information, any conditions of class, CAP rating, fatigue analysis (if appropriate), The vessels flag, Classification society, PSC Black Listing, training onboard and ashore.
For more info about Shipping Business (Chemical Tanker) readers can visit my website: