Cargo samples hold significant importance in protecting tanker ship owners against potential cargo claims, necessitating the utmost care in their proper handling. This article delves into some critical aspects related to sampling.
Type Of Sample Bottles
When it comes to which type of bottles to be used, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Pure acids or basic cargoes (e.g., sulphuric acid, phosphoric acid, or caustic soda) should be kept in plastic bottles (type HDPE). The reason for this is that such products will deteriorate glass over time resulting in the product containing increased levels of silica (e.g., sand or glass), but also because the bottles will become brittle and may break easily after a period of storage.
Inhibited and light sensitive cargoes are often stored in amber bottles. But if the samples are stored in dark sample lockers, then transparent bottles can be considered. Furthermore, quality complaints typically concern parameters that are not affected by light.
The downside of using plastic and amber (or dark) bottles is that they are not transparent and visual deviations (color, water, particulate matter) in a manifold, foot or final sample are therefore not easily observed by a ship’s crew assessing these samples. For immediate visual assessment, which is vital especially when assessing the manifold sample, transparent glass bottles should be used.
Labeling And Log Keeping
Proper labeling of the samples is crucial. In some cases, vessels follow the correct sampling procedures but have poor labeling practices, such as:
- including excessive information except for the essentials,
- using only a permanent marker to write the tank number without proper labels,
- having unreadable labels.
Such labeling issues weaken the value of samples as evidence in joint witness analyses.
A label should as a minimum contain the following information:
- a) Name of vessel and voyage number
- b) Type of cargo, port of loading and discharge
- c) Details of sample (manifold, final etc.)
- d) Date and name of the person who took it.
To record the sampling in the Port Log can also serve as evidence. If the samples are sealed, then the seal number should be recorded as well.
It is important to clarify the role of cargo surveyors and the misconception that issuing Letters of Protest for “failure to draw samples for the vessel” relieves the vessel from the responsibility of sampling or being involved in the sampling process. Cargo surveyors represent the cargo interests and follow their instructions, which may differ from the vessel’s interests. This can result in a lack of samples or disagreements regarding the representation of available samples.
Occasionally we experience ship owners who refrained from sampling by the ship’s crew because ‘unilaterally drawn and unsealed samples did not bear any value as evidence’. It is essential to remember that all samples can serve as evidence and samples taken by a ship’s crew are often the only evidence there is. Should a discussion regarding authenticity of samples persist, most products allow for fingerprint analyses, which would confirm that the samples are indeed representative.
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