Cleaning Cargo Holds

Cleaning cargo holds must be accomplished by ship’s crew between discharging of one cargo and loading of the next cargo. Cargo holds must be washed and prepared. Naturally, time and cost of hold cleaning depends upon the nature of the commodity discharged.

Generally, cleaning is the task of the ship’s crew and responsibility of shipowners or disponent shipowners. Occasionally, some port regulations do not permit the crew to clean cargo holds. For example, at some Australian ports, shore labor may insist on carrying out cleaning cargo holds for substantial costs.

During chartering ships, shipbrokers should carefully estimate the costs and responsibilities of cleaning cargo holds following discharge. Shipowners and charterers should draw up a concise and sensible agreement which define each party’s liability and expense, consistent with the commodity to be carried and the circumstances prevailing. Important factors to be considered:

  • Disposal of dunnage materials and the ownership of any valuable equipment like lashings materials
  • Removal costs of welded securing points such as pad-eyes
  • Chipping, preparing, and repainting of steelwork affected by rust
  • Cost of washing and removing stains from dirty cargo such as raw petroleum coke
  • Washing off of various temporary protective coatings from steelwork such as whitewash which is applied prior to loading bulk salt

Stipulation is made in time charter-party that the ship will be delivered with clean, swept cargo holds ready to receive intended cargo. At the end of time charter period, time-charterers are being usually obliged to return the ship in the same condition. However, fair wear and tear is excepted.

Usually in time charter-party a clause is negotiated to the effect that the time-charterers have the option of paying a certain sum in lieu of cleaning cargo holds prior to redelivery. For example:

“Ship’s holds and other cargo compartments are to be thoroughly cleaned, dried free from rust, free from insects and odorless before delivery and must not be painted before delivery and/or during the charter period without charterers’ permission. The ship on arrival to first loading port or place on each voyage to be in all respects ready to load and carry grain or grain products or sugar and pass Surveyor’s inspection and if fails to do so then the ship to be off-hire and all bunkers consumed/extra expenses incurred to be for shipowners’ account until the ship passes ready to load. The ship to be redelivered with clean swept holds, however, the charterers have the option to redeliver the ship without cleaning against payment of a lumpsum compensation of in lieu of hold cleaning.”

In a voyage charter, shipowners must either accept the responsibility for cleaning cargo holds after completion of discharge and allow for same in the freight rate assessment or negotiate that the charterers/receivers will “lean the compartments in their time and at their expense, either completely or partially such as shovel-clean”. Before presenting for the ship next cargo, the ship will be thoroughly inspected at the loading port and either accepted or rejected until certain extra work has been performed. Inspections prior to loading foodstuffs such as grain are particularly stringent. Furthermore, odor lingering from a recently discharged cargo which may taint more delicate next cargoes.