Ship’s Crew Hold Cleaning

Ship’s Crew Hold Cleaning

Practically, under all dry cargo time charters, the responsibility of arranging and performing loading, stowing, trimming and discharging cargo falls on Charterers.

Since most tramp ships, particularly bulkers, carry a wide variety of cargoes, it will frequently be necessary for the holds to be cleaned of residues of the previous cargo before the next cargo can be loaded.

Ship’s Crew Customary Assistance

Clause 8 of the NYPE form, which is the clause setting out charterers’ responsibility for loading and stowage, and so on, also provides that ‘the Captain … shall render all customary assistance with ship’s crew ….’ To what, if any, extent are owners obliged to provide the crew for the purpose of cleaning the holds of the residues of charterers’ last cargo in order to prepare the ship for their next cargo? The routine cleaning of a vessel’s cargo compartments is customarily carried out by the crew during the ships’s ballast voyage to the next port of loading.

Many Time Charters contain an additional cleaning clause which attempts to define the crew’s cleaning duties. Even in the absence of a specific cleaning clause, there is no doubt that customary assistance implies that at least routine or normal cleaning will be carried out by the ship’s crew. Washing down of holds and sweeping up of cargo residues falls within what is customary.

Difficulties arise in practice where the extent or complexity of the cleaning task means that cleaning will take a long time and be very laborious. With the absence of specific agreement in the charter party, it seems that the concept of customary assistance does not extend to work requiring special equipment or training.

Support for this view is found in the judgment of Donaldson, J. in The BELA KRAJINA [1975] : ‘The removal of soft non-adhering rust is the duty of the crew, and can be performed, albeit with difficulty, in ships of the size of the Bela Krajina, always given time and calm weather… The removal of hard adhering rust is a major operation which cannot be done by the crew during the course of a ballast voyage. It necessitates the erection of staging, and mechanical de-rusting equipment… It cannot be done efficiently and completely by the crew on a vessel of the size of the Bela Krajina… Cleaning of holds does not include chipping steel. It does include removal of large loose rust patches in accessible locations.

Ship’s Crew Customary Assistance does not extend to scaling operations requiring the use of sophisticated tools like pneumatic chipping hammers, high-pressure water jets or sand-blasting equipment.’ The degree of cleaning and the time required to carry it out will naturally vary depending on the characteristics of the cargo last carried and the nature of the next intended cargo. Provided that the crew are not asked to carry out unusually hazardous or arduous cleaning duties, and provided that they clean with reasonable diligence, owners will have complied with their duty to lend customary assistance

By undertaking to give Ship’s Crew Customary Assistance in general, and to provide crew to carry out cleaning duties, shipowners in no way guarantee that the ship’s crew’s cleaning efforts will be successful or will necessarily satisfy the inspection by the shippers’ surveyor at the port of loading.

There is no question of the ship being off-hire, just because cleaning takes much longer than expected. This is because cleaning of holds is a service like any other under the charter and is the service immediately required of the vessel at the time in question.

It cannot be said that time has been lost, by reason of any off-hire event, if the ship’s crew are carrying out normal cleaning without losing time through neglect of duty or inefficiency.

Ship Hold Cleaning Standards

In the Bulk trade there are essentially five types of Ship Hold Cleaning Standards:

  1. Hospital Clean
  2. Grain Clean
  3. Normal Clean
  4. Shovel Clean
  5. Dry Sweep
  6. Load on top

As it may be clear, the hospital clean is the highest standard of cleaning while the load on top is the lowest.

1- Hospital Clean: Hospital cleanliness represents the epitome of stringent cleaning standards. It necessitates the preservation of a flawless paint coating on all surfaces within the holds, encompassing the tank top, ladder rungs, and undersides of hatches.

This level of cleanliness is mandated for cargoes such as kaolin/china clay, mineral sands like zircon, barytes, rutile sand, ilmenite, fluorspar, chrome ore, soda ash, rice in bulk, and high-quality wood pulp. Typically, only vessels engaged exclusively in the transportation of such cargoes can meet these elevated standards. The need for hospital clean conditions rarely arises in the tramp trades.

2- Grain Clean: This represents the most prevalent requirement. As the name implies, grain cleanliness pertains to the standard of cleaning necessary for grain cargoes. For the majority of bulk and break bulk cargoes, including all types of grains, soya meal and related products, alumina, sulphur, bulk cement, bauxite, concentrates, and bulk fertilizers, a ship must meet the grain clean criteria. The National Cargo Bureau (NCB) provides an accepted definition for grain clean:

“Compartments must be impeccably clean, dry, devoid of odors, and free from gases. All loose scale must be eliminated.”

Based on the definition of grain clean, we can deduce the following:

  • All remnants of previous cargoes and securing materials (if any) must be removed from the hold.
  • Any loose paint or rust scale must be eradicated.
  • The hold must be completely dry after washing and before loading.
  • The hold must be well-ventilated and devoid of any odors.
  • The hold should pass the ‘white glove test,’ where no visible residues are transferred onto a white cloth when rubbed against the hold surface.

3- Normal Clean: Normal clean signifies that the holds have been thoroughly swept to remove any residues from the previous cargo and subsequently washed down, depending on the requirements of the charterer. This level of cleanliness is adequate for the loading of similar or compatible cargoes with the previous shipment.

4- Shovel Clean: Shovel clean denotes the removal of all previous cargo that can be eliminated using a ‘Bobcat’ or through a rough sweep and clean performed by stevedores or the crew using shovels.

5- Dry Sweeping: Dry sweeping involves the meticulous sweeping of all accessible areas, including ladders and hoppers, as well as the tank top. It ensures the complete elimination of visible residues from the previous cargo.

6- Load on Top: In the load on top standard, cargo is loaded on top of existing cargo residues. Typically, this requires a “grab clean” approach. This standard is frequently required when a ship is engaged in continuous trading of the same commodity and grade over an extended period, as observed in a Contract of Affreightment. In such cases, there is no commercial necessity to clean the holds between successive cargoes, and each cargo is simply loaded on top of any remaining residues from the previous shipment. Guidance may be necessary for the master regarding cleaning requirements, including the involvement of bulldozers and cleaning gangs.

In all instances, the Ship Master, in consultation with the Owners, should request clear information from the Charters regarding the required standard of hold cleanliness for the planned cargo. This knowledge not only saves time but also ensures the effective mobilization of resources, particularly when time is of the essence.


What is Hospital Clean in Ship Chartering?

In the context of ship chartering, “Hospital Clean” refers to a specific level of cleanliness required for vessels that are used to transport medical personnel, patients, or medical supplies. It is a term commonly used in the maritime industry to ensure that a ship meets strict hygiene standards for medical purposes.

When a ship is designated as “Hospital Clean,” it means that it has undergone a thorough cleaning and disinfection process to eliminate potential sources of contamination or infection. This level of cleanliness is essential to maintain a safe and sterile environment for patients and medical staff on board.

Hospital Clean requirements may vary depending on the specific regulations, guidelines, or contractual agreements established between the charterer and the shipowner. However, it typically involves comprehensive cleaning and disinfection of all areas, including cabins, medical facilities, storage spaces, common areas, and ventilation systems.

The cleaning process often includes the use of specialized cleaning agents, sanitizers, and disinfectants that meet medical industry standards. It may also involve the removal of any potential biohazards, proper waste management, and adherence to strict protocols to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

By ensuring that a ship is Hospital Clean, charterers can have confidence in the vessel’s ability to provide a safe and hygienic environment for medical purposes, such as transporting patients, medical missions, or delivering medical supplies to areas in need.


What is Grain Clean in Ship Chartering?

In the context of ship chartering, “Grain Clean” refers to a specific standard of cleanliness required for vessels that are used to transport grain or other bulk agricultural commodities. It is a term commonly used in the maritime industry to ensure that a ship meets strict hygiene standards for the transportation of food products.

When a ship is designated as “Grain Clean,” it means that it has undergone a thorough cleaning and preparation process to eliminate any potential sources of contamination that could affect the quality and safety of the grain cargo. This level of cleanliness is crucial to prevent spoilage, infestation, or the introduction of foreign materials into the cargo.

Grain Clean requirements may vary depending on the specific regulations, guidelines, or contractual agreements established between the charterer and the shipowner. However, it typically involves the following measures:

  1. Hold Cleaning: The cargo holds of the ship are thoroughly cleaned and inspected to remove any residues, such as previous cargo remnants, dust, or debris. This process ensures that the holds are free from contaminants that could compromise the quality of the grain.
  2. Pest Control: Measures are taken to prevent infestation by pests, such as insects or rodents, which could damage or contaminate the grain. This may include fumigation, pest control treatments, or the use of protective barriers.
  3. Ventilation and Moisture Control: Proper ventilation systems and moisture control measures are implemented to maintain suitable conditions for the cargo. This helps prevent the growth of mold, mildew, or excess moisture, which can impact the quality of the grain.
  4. Inspection and Certification: After the cleaning and preparation process, an independent inspection may be conducted to verify that the ship meets the Grain Clean standards. Certification is then issued to confirm compliance with the required cleanliness level.

By ensuring that a ship is Grain Clean, charterers can have confidence that their grain cargo will be transported in a clean and hygienic environment, reducing the risk of contamination or spoilage. This standard is crucial for maintaining the quality and integrity of the agricultural commodities throughout the shipping process.

Ship’s Crew Hold Cleaning Process

Cleaning the hold of a ship is an essential task to maintain the hygiene of the vessel, prevent contamination of cargo, and ensure compliance with international shipping standards. Here’s a basic guide to perform a ship’s hold cleaning:


  1. Assessment: Start by evaluating the condition of the ship’s hold. Inspect for any remaining cargo, debris, or residues from previous shipments. This will help you determine the extent of cleaning required.
  2. Equipment Check: Gather all necessary cleaning equipment. This may include brooms, shovels, vacuum cleaners, pressure washers, detergents, and protective gear like gloves, boots, and safety goggles.
  3. Safety Measures: Make sure that the hold is well ventilated before starting the cleaning process. All crew members involved should wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Cleaning Process:

  1. Sweeping: Begin with sweeping or vacuuming the hold to remove loose residues.
  2. Scraping: Use a scraper or a shovel to remove hard residues sticking to the hold’s surface. Be careful not to damage the hold’s surface while scraping.
  3. Washing: After the hold is free of solid residues, proceed with washing. Depending on the residues involved, this could be a simple freshwater washdown or require the use of cleaning chemicals.
  4. Chemical Cleaning: If necessary, apply an appropriate cleaning agent as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Rinse off thoroughly with fresh water.
  5. Pressure Washing: For stubborn stains or residues, consider using a high-pressure washer.

Post-Cleaning Process:

  1. Drying: After washing, allow the hold to dry properly. This can be accelerated by using air movers or blowers.
  2. Inspection: Once the hold is dry, inspect it carefully for cleanliness. Check corners and hidden areas that might have been missed during the cleaning process.
  3. Disposal of Waste: Ensure all waste from the cleaning process is disposed of correctly as per environmental regulations.
  4. Record Keeping: Document all the cleaning tasks for future reference and regulatory purposes.

Cleaning requirements may vary depending on the next intended cargo. Some cargo types might require more specific cleaning procedures to avoid contamination. Always follow your ship’s specific guidelines and international regulations.


What are the different types of Cargo Hold Cleaning?

Cargo hold cleaning is an essential part of ship maintenance and operation, mainly in bulk carriers. Different cargo types can require different cleaning procedures, which may include sweeping, washing, or even the use of chemical cleaning agents. Here are some main types of cargo hold cleaning:

  1. Sweeping and Shoveling: This is the simplest form of cargo hold cleaning and usually the first step after cargo discharge. Workers manually or mechanically sweep and shovel remaining cargo residues from the hold. While it doesn’t require specialized equipment or chemical agents, it can be labor-intensive and time-consuming.
  2. Washing with Fresh or Sea Water: Washing the cargo hold with fresh or sea water is a common method used after the hold has been swept and shoveled. High-pressure hoses or fixed washing machines are typically used to wash down the bulkheads and tank top.
  3. Chemical Cleaning: For some types of cargo, like cement or coal, water washing may not be sufficient. Chemical cleaning agents are used to break down cargo residues that are difficult to remove. Chemical cleaning must be carried out following the guidelines of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the ship’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to ensure the safety of the crew and the marine environment.
  4. Cleaning for Grain: The cargo hold must be spotless before carrying grain to prevent any contamination. This involves a thorough cleaning process, which may include sweeping, washing, and the use of pesticides. Any rust scales or flaking paint should also be removed.
  5. Cleaning for Special Cargoes: Some cargoes, such as foodstuffs or hazardous materials, may require special cleaning procedures to comply with regulations and maintain the quality and safety of the cargo.
  6. Limewashing: Limewashing is a specific cleaning process usually required before carrying alumina or bauxite. A layer of lime is spread on the tank top to prevent cargo contamination from any residues.
  7. Gas Freeing: This method is used when the cargo that was previously carried leaves harmful gases in the hold. The hold is ventilated until it is gas-free. This is particularly important when the next cargo is food-grade or when hot work is to be carried out in the hold.

Always remember that all cleaning procedures must be conducted in accordance with relevant regulations and guidelines, including those relating to environmental protection and crew safety. Each cargo hold cleaning operation must be properly planned and supervised, and the effectiveness of the cleaning should be verified before loading the next cargo.