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COT rupturing due to incorrect pigging / line blowing - who's to blame?

Pigging / line blowing are crucial operations on chemical tankers. If not done correctly, it can lead to COT rupturing due to over-pressurization and eventually loss of cargo, as in the case of The Bum Chin [2019]. Charterers were claiming against owners for their losses.

Charterers contended that tank was structurally weak and there was insufficient venting. Owners argued it was the result of sudden surge of air for which terminal was responsible.

Court found that venting was sufficient even though the P/V valve was not working – as various COT hatches were kept open. Question really was what caused over-pressurization? As per court the terminal had supplied the air at proper pressure but ship’s manifold v/v was not throttled by crew. Moreover, not calling the manifold watchman to testify was detrimental to owners’ case as was rejection of C/O's testimony as it could not be proven that he was in CCR during line blowing. As regards structural weakness, it contributed to the loss. A $206,706 win for charterers.

Not talked about - is whether controlling ship’s manifold v/v was a safe and proper practice. In any case vessel's SMS documents were referred to in detail and they required the valve to be throttled by ‘experienced’ crew to control the air entering COT.

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