December 17 - According to the UK P&I Club's risk assessor David Nichol, members continue to experience high value cargo damage relating to the ingress of water into the cargo holds of vessels.

Improvements in equipment design, vessel maintenance programmes and raised commercial expectations have significantly reduced the frequency of cargo wetting problems, but the Club's statistics show that there is no room for complacency.

Nichol drew attention to a number of points, such as steel work structures and fittings being kept corrosion free and well coated. Panel seals should be complete, pliable and without excessive deformation or grooving. Where a section of rubber is found to be deficient, the whole panel strip should preferably be replaced.

Manufacturer approved sealing rubber should be fitted, including shaped sections for corner pieces. Furthermore, if hatch cover panels are not properly aligned with each other and/or the hatch coamings, the sealing arrangement will be compromised. Panel hinge and pivot bearings should be periodically checked for excessive wear and pins/bushes replaced as required.

Nichol explained that bearing pads on both coamings and corresponding panels are designed to bear the weight of the hatch covers and any cargo that may be loaded on top, while providing the correct spacing between panels and coamings. It is important that these fittings are kept clean, corrosion free and periodically checked to ensure that the designed dimensions of the pads are maintained.

He also observed that hatch coaming face plates, compression bars and drainage channels should be clean and free of physical damage and corrosion.

Hatch cover panel securing arrangements whether automated or manually operated, must be complete, properly adjusted and lubricated. Excessive over tightening of manual cleats should not be done in the misguided belief that this will improve the tightness of the seal.