Cargo Loss Due to Failure of Reefer System

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A reefer system condenser was leaking badly where the sea water entered the refrigerant  system causing complete loss of cargo.

Incident:

During loading cargo of frozen poultry, the hold temperatures did not respond properly to the reefer system’s thermostat.  Loading of frozen poultry continued as the engineers were busy to identify the fault.  However, by the end of loading the entire refrigerant system was found to be completely blocked by frozen water.

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Reasons:

  • Water leaked into the Freon system which could be due to the fractured or punctured piping in the condenser.
  • The prominent factor was the inadequate and timely response to a technical reefer failure.  The refrigeration plant on a reefer ship is the most important system where due negligence will render the vessel unfit for service.
  • The situation went out of control as the loading operations continued in spite of failure of reefer system.

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Consequences:

  • Lack of situational awareness and decision making skills lead to complete loss of cargo.
  • Had the cargo loading been stopped, the unloaded frozen cargo would have been saved.
  • Due to short notice and lack of time, no immediate solution was found in order to discharge the cargo.
  • The cargoes discharged at the Country of Origin was seriously thawed, which resulted in a substantial loss of the cargo.

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Ways to prevent such incidents:

  • Formation of emergency response teams to closely monitor the reefer vessels’ performance when in operation.
  • The increase in the risk of technical failure has also raised the call for strict adherence to tighter planned maintenance schedules.  Due to the ageing world fleet of reefer vessels, the risk of technical failures increases.
  • Highly qualified reefer engineers should be employed to assist the onboard engineering teams  in identifying the system failures.
  • Regular assessments:
    • To check the condition of the condensers by opening the water and freon covers, preferably every three to six months,
    • To monitor the condition of the anti-corrosion anodes,
    • To check the condition of the tubes beyond certain age,
    • Timely replacement of the condensers in case of repeated problems with condensers or deterioration of the condenser tubes/plates.

Source: Skuld

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