March 2 - A recent state inspection campaign that raises concerns over multiple problems with hatch openings should be welcomed by the industry, is the message from Peter Peltenburg, group director of Cargo Care Solutions.

"We cut corners on maintenance at our peril. As the economic downturn bites the industry has seen a shift to lower quality products, and a less systematic approach to scheduled maintenance. This is false economy, and the results of this campaign show that ship owners are ultimately paying for these short cuts."

The comments were made after a state inspection campaign supported by Tokyo MoU revealed a large number of vessel deficiencies relating to cargo hatch openings, and reported one casualty during the campaign period.

"Whilst operators are aware of the need to keep cargo in good condition, it's all too easy to overlook the fact that hatch covers are essential to protect and keep the structural safety of a vessel," he adds. "There have been a number of vessel losses known which were due to the loss of the weathertight integrity of the hatch covers. Some include human casualties."

Approximately a third of all P&I claims are cargo-related. Numerous of these cases are related to ingress of seawater via the hatch covers of dry cargo vessels. According to P&I clubs, reports of leaking hatch covers are the most frequent cause for selecting a vessel for an unscheduled condition survey.

"Increased investment and attention to hatch cover maintenance and repairs may save the shipowners' money from cargo claims," explains Peter. "It's a simple calculation, but one which is so often overlooked. We need a report like this to remind us that seemingly minor short cuts in maintenance can lead to major problems."

Cargo Care Solutions has a long history in the field of cargo access equipment. As the former after-sales network ofMacor Neptun and SEOHAE Marine System, it has more than 30 years of experience in its field and supplies parts and services for all types and brands of maritime cargo access equipment.