Don’t Ignore your hatch covers

By Mohamed H Farghaly, Managing Director and CEO, Suez Canal Insurance and member of the IUMI Loss Prevention Committee.

Ships' hatch covers play a vital role by creating the closure mechanism used to seal the openings or hatches on a ship's deck. Their primary functions are to prevent water ingress into cargo holds, ensure the safety of onboard personnel, protect the cargo from adverse weather conditions and maintain vessel stability. Over the years, these covers have undergone significant evolution in design and functionality from primitive coverings such as tarpaulins or wooden planks to the more sophisticated and efficient hatch cover systems we see today.

To ensure the safety of cargo and vessels, there are internationally recognized regulations and standards for hatch covers. Organizations such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and classification societies set guidelines for their design, construction, and maintenance. These regulations address factors such as weather tightness, corrosion prevention, structural integrity, and proper securing mechanisms. Compliance with these standards is crucial.

Although hatch covers provide effective cargo protection, there can be instances where failures occur resulting in cargo damage, vessel incidents and potential insurance claims. Several factors can contribute including poor maintenance and inspection practices, improper securing, corrosive elements compromising seal integrity, and structural failures due to age or inadequate repairs. Operational negligence, extreme weather conditions and human error can also lead to accidents and losses.

Preventing losses and claims calls for stringent maintenance procedures and proactive measures. Regular inspection, testing, and repair of hatch covers are imperative to ensure their structural integrity and weather tightness. Adequate training of onboard crew members on correct handling and securing techniques is also essential. Implementing robust maintenance schedules, updating aging systems and utilizing advanced sealing materials are loss prevention measures ship owners can adopt to mitigate risks.

Ships' hatch covers are a critical component of maritime operations, safeguarding cargo and vessels from potential damage and loss. Throughout history, advancements in design and regulations have strengthened their effectiveness. However, adhering to maintenance protocols, adopting modern sealing technologies and complying with maritime standards remain crucial in preventing losses. By prioritizing proper maintenance, stringent inspections, and crew training, ship owners can minimize risks and ensure the safety and security of their cargo and vessels.