What Steps Should a Prudent Ship Owner take When Placing Vessels in Layup?

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When taking the decision to layup a vessel, there are several considerations to make before this is carried out.  Below are some of the elements which Members need to consider:

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Duration of layup

The first consideration is the duration of the intended layup period.  This will help the Member in the decision to either place the vessel in hot or cold layup.

A hot layup means that machinery is kept in a state of operation and can be re-commissioned in a short time scale if there is a change in the employment of the vessel.  It is typical if the vessel is to be idle for a period of 12 months or less, for it to be maintained in a hot layup state.

Where a vessel is planned to be laid up for more than 12 months, cold layup is a viable option.  This means that the machinery is taken out of service and the vessel made electrically ‘dead’.  It is often the case where even the emergency power is turned off.  In these instances, shore power or deck generators can be used to supply power to the vessel to ensure that the navigational lights and appropriate deck lighting are operational during hours of darkness.

Location

The next consideration is the layup location.  The location should be sheltered and not exposed to strong winds, high currents, tidal streams or swell.  Historical meteorological information available from weather services providers assists in evaluation.  In a case of laying up at berth, it is important that the layup berth is safe, given the size of the vessel, and can adequately accommodate the vessel for the entire period of layup.  In case of anchoring, apart from ample sea room being available, the seabed should have good holding characteristics and be free from obstructions or other hazards, along with adequate water depth for the vessel, so it can remain afloat at all states of the tide, with sufficient under keel clearance.

Mooring arrangements

The layup procedure, including mooring/anchoring configurations, should be planned and evaluated.  This includes but is not limited to the method of mooring the vessel: is the vessel to be alongside or at anchor? On mooring buoys or moored alongside other vessels?

When assessing mooring requirements, it is important to ensure that the moorings are suitable to withstand the worst weather which can be expected at the layup location.

If the vessel is to be laid up alongside, it is important that the bollards that are intended to be used for mooring to are of adequate strength and suitably positioned to allow for a good lead from the vessel.

Statutory and operational requirements

Members must ensure that the statutory certificates of the vessel remain valid throughout the period of layup as failure to do so could prejudice cover.

The vessel must be adequately manned as per the Flag Administration’s requirements.  With approval from the vessel’s Flag Administration, the vessel may be able to make operational cost savings, such as a reduction in manning levels.  However, it cannot be stressed more that this is strictly in accordance with the Flag state’s manning requirement.

In the case of an unmanned vessel, such as a barge, it is important that the vessel’s position and the mooring/anchoring equipment are monitored regularly.  Furthermore, regular inspections of the vessel must be undertaken to ensure that there is no breach of watertight integrity and the vessel is in a structurally seaworthy condition.  Needless to say, all watertight and weathertight openings such as doors, hatch covers and manhole covers must be effectively battened down to prevent any ingress of water.

During the course of the layup, weather reports must be monitored regularly (by the shore office in the case of an unmanned vessel) for early warning in case of any developing storms in the area.  This allows Members to take additional steps to ensure safety of the vessel as appropriate.  Navigational lights and shapes must be displayed in accordance with collision regulations to ensure that other vessels in the vicinity have no doubt with regards to the laid up status of the vessel.

Emergency towing arrangements, in the case of barges, must be available, facilitating the barge to be hooked up by a tug without delay and towed to safety in case of any emergencies.

Sufficient notice is to be given to the necessary authorities, such as the Flag administration and the vessel’s Classification Society, to ensure compliance with Class rules during the course of the layup.  Although not in service, a laid up vessel will still be required to undertake class surveys which will cover such things as watertight integrity, bilge system, fire hazards and the equipment in use.

The vessel’s Flag Administration will also require notification of the vessel’s change in status, each having its own requirements.  Please check with the vessel’s Flag Administration prior to layup for individual requirements.  For guidance, this could include lay-up procedures, proposed manning levels, emergency response plans, navigational watch arrangements and security arrangements.

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