Everything you need to know about Grain Loading | Pre loading preparations | Part II

What causes a ship to turn?
June 10, 2021
Hold cleaning standards you should know about
June 28, 2021

Let me start with a funny quote:


“Cleaning for grain cargo has no limits,
you continue to clean till the very last day”


In continuation with our discussions in Part I for this topic let us discuss regarding all pre-loading checks and preparations supposed to be carried out in order to ensure that vessel is grain-fit.

Read Part I here.

If the previous cargo has been grain, cleaning for loading grain again becomes relatively easy. We shall focus here on how one should go about cleaning from dirty cargo to grain cargo.

Let us discuss the important elements you need to focus on prior preparation to load grain.

Facing the facts 

In case your previous cargoes have been dirty ones such as coal, iron ore etc, are you confident about cleaning the holds to grain standards in the given span of time? For answering this question you should focus on the following points :


  1. Time at hand to the loading port where the vessel will be loading grain

  2. The current condition of holds: has the vessel previously been carrying grain? or will you be cleaning for dirty to grain standard? If yes, what is the condition of staining of holds? How is the weather forecast ? Will the weather permit proper cleaning of holds? Will the crew be able to reach the spots in hold which demands manual cleaning. These all questions must be answered. Any considerations with above shall be brought to the notice of owners and charterers. Remember Safety First!  

  3. Disposal of Wash Water: Many a times, it is a possibility that the vessel’s current port and voyage to the loading port (where she will be loading the grain) lies in special area and NO part of the voyage is lying outside special area. Master should always appraise the owners and charters regarding this issue and same allowances shall be shown in the deadweight calculation in case the vessel retains the slops onboard. In all cases, the requirements of MARPOL Annex V must be complied with at all times. This has always been a gray area of concern where the charters do not want to reduce the amount of cargo and at the same time ask Master to make “alternative arrangements”. Master should always exercise caution in such situations and seek owners advice at the earliest.        


Organize your resources

  1. Status of Hold cleaning equipments and chemicals : It is very important to ensure that the vessel has sufficient inventory of hold cleaning chemicals. Chemical applicators, hoses, pumps, high pressure machines etc shall be checked and tested for their optimum performance. Requirements, if any, shall be raised in time preferably at the discharge port of the current voyage itself. At all times owners shall be closely informed regarding developments.

  2. Available quantity of Fresh Water : Hold cleaning for grain cargo requires copious amount of fresh water. It’s always better to estimate the quantity required and  accordingly ask the charters to supply it in case the Fresh Water generator onboard in incapable of generating sufficient quantity of water. 

Basis the above points a detailed cleaning plan shall be chalked out. Normally it is done by the Master, Chief Officer and Bosun. Ascertaining answers to all above questions will generate a realistic mind map of what needs to be done, what are the pain points and what are the risks involved and the biggest question – will the ship’s crew be able to make the holds grain clean in required time OR is more time required?

Whatever may be the case, the cleaning plan should always be brought to the notice of the owners and charters. One should always be practical in their approach rather than making unrealistic commitments. Additional manpower, if required, (considering if the time period is relatively small) shall always be pointed out and asked for. You do not want to compromise safety of the personnel at any given point of time during the operation.

While the vessel is at discharge port

Imagine that you are discharging the cargo of coal and the next voyage has been fixed for grain. This is a realistic situation and has happened number of times during my career at sea. Therefore, the process of cleaning should commence soon at the discharge port itself. Chief Officer should point out that which hold requires more attention to cleaning. Accordingly, he shall plan with the foreman at the discharging port that he wants that Cargo hold to be completed first. The discharging sequence shall be amended accordingly.

The crew, if safe and practicable, shall work in collaboration with the shore cleaning gang, in order to ensure that cargo holds are swept efficiently. Shore cleaning gang, mostly, has proper tools and equipment including cherrypicker. Ship crew if present in the hold can always point out to them in order to reach out to otherwise difficult places where cargo needs to be removed.

Remember, the more the sweeping is effective, more it is easy to carry out de mucking at the later stage. De mucking itself is a time consuming process and effective sweeping ensures that de mucking is less time consuming especially, when every second counts out at sea.

The swept and collected cargo can be effectively discharged at the port itself using the cranes and grabs already in operation. 

For a panamax carrier, one should aim to complete sweeping at least 4-5 cargo holds. This is  a realistic figure and can be done if planned well in advance. Last 2-3 holds can always be swept out later. Do not be in a hurry to use water – ensure that sweeping has been done effectively. Wet cargo is always difficult to remove than dry cargo.

We shall discuss the hold cleaning procedures at length in Part III.

Do send in your comments or other queries in case you have any!


Wishing you fair seas and Bonn Voyage!


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