After weeks or even months laid up during the Covid-19 pandemic, an increasing number of fishing vessels are preparing to resume operations. Attention to detail during recommissioning will pay dividends, advises Sunderland Marine Risk Management Surveyor Alan Ure.
He commented that vessel inspection inevitably includes its share of box-ticking but there are specific areas that the experienced inspector knows demand special attention.
“In the same way, vessels coming out of lay-up undergo a set of standard checks, but some details require extra scrutiny,” he said.
“Some steps are self-evidently necessary before any mothballed vessel re-enters service. Safety equipment – including life rafts, life jackets, personal beacons, flares, man-overboard smoke floats and first-aid kits – should be checked thoroughly, especially for service and expiry dates.”
With more and more fishing vessels laid up as a result of the coronavirus pandemic now being considered for reintroduction to service, there are good reasons to give additional attention to the condition of fuel systems, for example.
“To help ensure that the system remains in good working order after period of lay-up, water and sediment need to be drained from the tanks, while the sediment bowl should be drained and cleaned,” Alan Ure said.
“New filter elements and engine-mounted fuel filters should also be fitted, with the tank full to reduce the risk of condensation and bacterial growth, using an additive in accordance with the machinery manufacturer’s specifications. Running the engine is also advisable, to bleed fuel through the filters. Check that all filler caps are fitted, sealed and secured.”
Alan Ure explained that fuel systems are not the only areas where extra care is recommended. Batteries should be fully charged, and their fluid levels checked, while electronic equipment, such as navigation and communication systems, should be powered up and tested to assess its condition.
“In the freshwater cooling system, the right combination of water and anti-freeze is needed to protect against internal corrosion, which is why manufacturer specifications recommend corrosion inhibitors. In sea water systems, inactivity can render rubber impellers brittle and prone to failure or cause the impeller blades to take on the folded shape of the cam. This can greatly reduce pump efficiency. Rubber impellers should be replaced if left unused for extended periods,” he said.
“Cleary, responsible owners whose vessels are on the verge of departure will not need reminding to consult or check with the harbour office for clearance to do so for abnormalities within the harbour that could damage the hull. However, before doing so, they are advised to take other proactive steps, including clearing bilges of debris, equipping all pumps for immediate use and testing the bilge alarm manually, draining the engine/gearbox oil to remove impurities, replenishing the oil and filters and operating the engine and gearbox to distribute the clean oil through the system. A thorough check of the internal shaft seal arrangement of the stern gear for condition and any trace of seawater ingress should be carried out, and also the steering system, checking its oil levels and lubricating mechanical steering, rudder linkages and rudder post tube; and lubricating deck machinery,’ Alan Ure said.
“By following this guidance, owners can help to ensure that their vessels return to service safely, resuming fishing operations with reduced risk of additional enforced downtime.”