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There is no single fail-proof method to get your tanks cleaned

to methanol standard after Vegetable oil. Sorry!!!

I wish if I could tell you that if you did this particular thing your
tanks will be ready for methanol standard.

But it just doesn’t happen that way.

The reality is that you can’t rely on one technique to clean your
tanks after Vegetable oil.

You have to approach it using a combination of different


But positive thing is that there are few principles that we need
to follow to make the tank cleaning much easier and less

Let us discus

Type of Vegetable oil

The first and foremost, we must know the type of palm oil that
we had in the tanks. This is important because the tank
cleaning method would depend on that.
If we make a mistake in this, we can never be able to clean the
tanks to methanol standard. Never!!!

So here is the type of palm oils that I am referring to.

 Dry

 Semi-dry

 Non-dry

The question is, how to find which category palm oil loaded on
your vessel falls into. Tank cleaning software (provided on board
by of the chemical tanker operators) helps in that.

Milbros is one of such software. Let us say we just discharged

following Vegetable oils

 Sunflower oil

 Crude palm oil

 Palm Stearin

And we want to check the type of Veg oil for “Sunflower oil”.
Open Milbros on the computer.
It will lead you to the initial screen.

In the search option, type Sunflower oil and choose sunflower

oil from the options.
In the sunflower oil screen, go to notes and under Cleaning,
look for any information of describing sunflower oil as drying or
Semi-drying oil.
As you can see, Sunflower oil, in fact, a drying or Semi-drying

This information can also be found in other resources like Dr.

Verwey’s tank cleaning guide.
Precaution with drying and Semi-Drying palm

Now, why is it so important to know if the palm oil is drying or

Semi-drying type?

The drying and semi-drying oils get to harden when it comes in

contact with air.

If allowed to come in direct contact with air, these palm oils

would dry quickly and become hardened on the tank coating.
There are few conditions in which these oils can dry on the

 If there is no moisture in the tank and/or

 If there is the high temperature in the tank.

Why high temperature? Because higher temperature absorbs

the moisture from the atmosphere. This is particularly
important while washing the tanks containing drying or semi-
drying palm oils.

We must initially wash these tanks with ambient seawater. If we

use hot sea water, the palm oil will become hardened on the
coating and it will not be possible to remove this from the
Another important point is to wash these tanks as soon as
discharging is completed and empty tank certificate issued by
the surveyor. If the terminal does not allow tank cleaning at
berth, we can just introduce some water in the tank and
recirculate it for few seconds in every few hours to keep the
tank bulkheads moist.

This may look to be a small step but it really helps in a big way.

Take-away points for drying/Semi-drying palm oils:

 Initially wash the tanks containing drying or semi-drying

palm oils with ambient seawater (or fresh water) for 1-1.5

 Keep the tank moist till the time tank cleaning is


General tank cleaning procedure

There are tons of resources to advise the general procedure to

follow for cleaning the tank after a cargo. As discussed Milbros
is one of these resources.

In the Milbros software, go to “From/to cleaning” section.

Enter the “from and to” cargoes and click on “View Results”.

This will show you the recommended cleaning, step by step.

Now if you follow these steps exactly as it is, there is no
guarantee that your tanks will be ready to wall wash standard.

You may have to clean for an extended period (2-3 hrs

mentioned in these steps may not be enough). Usually, 4 hours
washing cycle is considered to be sufficient.

Main principles of tank cleaning

There are a number of tank cleaning chemicals that we may

use during tank cleaning but the use of these chemicals helps
only to a certain extent.

There are somethings other than the use of chemicals that

brings wonder results for the tank cleaning.

An efficient cleaning of tanks require

 Physical Cleaning of the tanks

 Chemical cleaning of the tanks

Physical cleaning of the tank

Remember in old time (and in some places, even today) how
the clothes are washed manually.

Yes, mainly by use of force.

More force, better cleaning. Though damage to the clothes

needs to be kept in mind when using too excessive force.

Same applies to the tank cleaning on chemical tankers. The

pressure of tank cleaning water is very important for efficient
Washing of the tanks at 6 bars pressure will achieve nothing.
More pressure the better.

Usually, 8 to 10 bars is considered to be good pressure, 8 Bars

being the minimum. If our system allows, we must try to
achieve at least 9 bars pressure in the tank cleaning line.

This is because of the fact that pressure in tank cleaning line

and at the tip of the tank cleaning machine will not be same as
the pressure that hits the bulkheads.
Take-away points: Higher the pressure of the tank cleaning
medium, better will be the cleaning. Reduce the number of
tanks being washed if pressure is less.

Chemical cleaning of tanks

When I say, cleaning of the tanks chemically, I do not mean the
use of chemicals. There is something else more important than
using chemicals for cleaning.

That is temperature. Yes, the temperature is the best chemical

you will have during tank cleaning.

More the temperature of the cleaning medium better will be the


Allow me to explain with the same analogy of washing of

clothes. Dip a similar dirty shirt in cold water and in hot water
buckets and leave it there for few hours.

After few hours when we take out the shirts, water in which of
the bucket you would expect to be cleaner?

Of course, the cold water will be cleaner as hot water would

have taken more dirt out of the shirt. But how?

This is the chemical reaction I am talking about here.

When I talked about the pressure, I talked about the pressure at
which the water hits the bulkhead and not the pressure at the
nozzle tip or in the tank cleaning line.

Same applies to the temperature.

If the bulkhead itself is cold or has the ballast on the other side
of the bulkhead, the cleaning will not be effective.

I totally agree that removing the ballast from the adjacent

ballast tanks is a real pain but believe me when I say it. Gains
in terms of effectiveness of the cleaning outshines the pain of
removing the ballast.

So we must lower the ballast water level from the adjacent

tanks to a level where the water is not touching any of the
cargo tank bulkheads.
But the use of higher temperatures is not true every time.
There are some exceptions to this like the initial washing of
drying and semi-drying palm oils (More exceptions later in this

Take-away points: Barring few exceptions, higher the

temperature, better will be the cleaning.

Use of chemicals
While high pressure and higher temperatures will do most of
the job, cleaning to wall wash standard would still most likely
require the use of chemical re-circulation in the tanks.

And the question is which chemical to use?

The first condition for choosing the tank cleaning chemical is

that chemicals need to be IMO Approved. MEPC circular list all
the chemicals with their makers that are approved for use by

Check if the chemical you have planned to use are in this list.

The second condition is that the chemicals need to be safe to

use with respect to the tank coating. This information can be
found from the information provided by the chemical maker.
Even when these conditions are satisfied, we still need to
choose from the number of chemicals available in the market.
And which chemicals work best will usually come by the
experience of tank cleaning.

Generally, any of these chemicals are good for cleaning the

palm oil tanks

 Grato 50 (for stainless steel tanks) and Grato 14 (for

Zinc/Epoxy coated tanks) Make: CP Metal Chemicals

 Marclean SC or Marclean AC+ Make: Teca

 Caretank Eco Make: Marine Care

These are the chemical to do the main wash which is to make

the tanks clean in all respects. But apart from these chemicals,
you may need to have few other chemicals too just in case you.

You may need to have chemicals to remove odor from the tanks
or color from the samples.

Well, some companies do not give many options to choose from

and they have fixed chemicals to choose from and have the
recommended list and quantities of the chemicals to maintain
on board.

This may in a way remove some load from the chief officer.

We also need to have an estimate of what quantity of the

chemicals would be required for tank cleaning. This can easily
be calculated from the concentration of chemical required in
the chemical solution and minimum volume of solution required
for the pump to take suction during re-circulation.

For example, 0.5% of Caretank Eco is recommended for re-

circulation. Let us say 3 m3 (3000 liters) of water is required for
the pump to maintain good pressure during the re-circulation.

Then the quantity of Caretank Eco for one tank would be 3000 x
0.5/100 = 15 Liters.

Chemical Re-circulation

For the chemical re-circulation to be effective, there is this one


The initial cleaning needs to be effective. This means that there

should not be any traces of previous cargo in the tank. The
tanks need to be absolutely clean visually. And higher
temperature/Higher pressure during initial cleaning really helps
in that.

The higher temperature-better cleaning is applicable to the

chemical re-circulation also but there are few points that we
need to keep in mind.
1. Caustic based chemicals can make your tanks white if
heated to higher temperatures.

If caustic based chemicals are used for re-circulation, we need

to be careful with heating the solution.

The temperature of the cleaning solution should not be

increased to more than 40 C.

It is also recommended to not heat the solution at all but

sometimes it is unavoidable especially when cleaning in a low-
temperature environment.

2. Using fresh water for making the cleaning solution

If you need to heat the chemical solution used for recirculation,

be aware of what water you will use to make the chemical

If you use sea water and keep the steam in heating coils on,
there are chances of hard solid salt deposits on the entire
heating coils of the tanks.

This salt deposits could become difficult to remove.

We can just use the fresh water to make the chemical solution
to avoid any of these solutions.
But sometimes we are short of fresh water and we need to use
sea water for making the chemical solution.

In that case, there are few things you can do to avoid this.

First, stop the steam in the heating coils at least 30 minutes

before stopping recirculation.

Second, rinse the tank with fresh water for 5-10 minutes
immediately after chemical recirculation.

Keeping tank coating in mind

More temperature more pressure is good for removing the

impurities and better cleaning of the tanks.

But it may not be so good for the tank coating.

The vessel must be aware of the maximum temperature

allowed by the tank coating manufacturer.

Usually, coating manufacturer will have some temperature

limitation but these limitations are for the temperature of the
Exposure to higher temperatures for short period is usually
allowed and that does not affect the tank coating.

In any case, the tank coating manufacturer must be consulted

to have the clarity on the use of higher temperatures than
specified for tank cleaning.


Cleaning of the cargo tanks with palm oil as previous cargo is a

difficult task.

And if you have to clean these tanks to load wall wash cargo,
the task becomes even more difficult.

But this difficult task can become easy to a great extent if few
simple principles of tank cleaning are followed.

More pressure and more temperatures (barring few exceptions)

are one of such principle.

Choosing the correct chemical for cleaning and following the

instructions for the chemicals to be effective also helps.

A beginner’s guide of planning stowage on chemical tankers

Written by Capt Rajeev Jassal on July 28, 2016

There is no other way to have expertise in chemical tanker operations other than by working on board a
chemical tanker. Chemical tanker is a complete different field. With each new cargo you are on a
completely different ship. This is because the requirements both safety and otherwise changes with each

It takes months and years of working on chemical tanker to get used to its uniques operations.

IHS FairPlay expects chemical cargo demand forecast to surge by 2020. Radiant insight INC has said
recently that chemical tanker market size will be worth $2.23 Trillion by 2020.

All these forecasts and trends show that there will be huge demand for chemical tanker officers on
these ships. Many shore management will be forced to shift officers from other ships to chemical

But performing each task on chemical tanker without earlier experience on these can be difficult. One
such task is the stowage of the cargo on chemical tankers.

This guide aims to help officers with comparatively lesser experience on chemical tankers. However, this
can also be used by experienced officers to help them refresh their memory.

Let’s begin.
Receiving voyage orders

As is the case with other ships, on chemical tankers some operators will make the stowage plan and send
you for verification. Others will send the cargo list for loading and would expect you to stow each cargo
and send them the stowage plan.

In both the case we need to check the list, trim and stability criteria for each leg of the voyage. This is no
brainer as we do same on all type of ships. But there are few things specific to chemical tankers that we
need to check while planning the stowage.

Exclusive Bonus: Download this simple checklist for stowage planning on chemical tanker

There are steps that we need to follow while preparing the stowage plan on chemical tanker. If you have
been sailing on chemical tanker for some time now, these might come naturally to you. But for the first
timers or first time mates, these need to be followed religiously.

Can we load this cargo ?

The first thing that we need to clarify is if the ship is designed to load this cargo. For the sake of
understanding, let’s assume that we have got orders to load these four cargoes

Acetic acid

Palm fatty acid distilates



We need to know if we can load these chemicals. Let us go step by step to know if we can load these

a) Know the proper shipping name of the cargo

One chemical can have many trade names. To know if we can load a cargo or not, we need to know its
proper shipping name listed in IBC code.

Certificate of fitness lists all the cargoes that a vessel is fit to load. The name of the cargoes in the COF
are proper shipping names (IBC name) and not trade names.

So if the charterer has given you trade names, you first need proper shipping name of such cargoes. For
example in the cargoes above, methanol is a trade name. Proper shipping name of Methanol is methyl

How can we know if the name is a IBC name or trade name ?

Just go to IBC code chapter 17. See if you can find that cargo. If it is there, then it is proper
shipping name. If it isn’t there in chapter 17, then it is a trade name.

If we just have the trade name of the cargo, how can we know its IBC name ? There are 3 ways that I can
think of.
First, you can go to chapter 19 of the IBC code and see if you can find your cargo name there. If you can,
then it will give you the proper shipping name (IBC name) in the next column.
Second, you can go to tank cleaning guide software such as Miracle and Milbros. This software has more
or less become a necessity to have on all chemical tankers. More often than not you will find one of
these software on chemical tanker. So for example, if you open milbros, go to commodities.

In the search option, you can type in the name of the cargo and then choose from the list.

This will give you the product name (IBC name) of the cargo you entered.
In fact, if you go to the synonyms section it will give all the names this cargo is known as.
Third way to know the IBC name of cargo is by just asking your operator or charterers. Knowing the
proper shipping name of cargo being loaded is very important.

b) Check in the cargo list of the COF

Now that we know the proper shipping name of the cargo, go to cargo list of the COF and check if your
cargo appears in the list.

The cargoes in the COF are listed in alphabatical orders. Let’s check if these cargoes appear in the COF of
a real ship.

Acetic acid does not appear in the COF of this ship. So this ship cannot load this cargo.
Methyl Alcohol appears in the list and we can load this cargo too.
In the same way we can check for Toluene Diisocyanate and Palm fatty acid distillate.

c) Check coating manual

The certificate of fitness does not take into account the coating of the tank. Even if we are allowed to
load a particular cargo, we need to check if the coating of the tank is suitable for the cargo to avoid the
damage to the cargo coating.

There are number of coating that the cargo tanks of a chemical tanker can have.

Stainless steel


Zinc silicate

Marine Line


These are the few of the most popular coatings of cargo tanks on chemical tanker.

If the tanks are stainless steel coated then you do not need to worry about the coating.

The coating manual will have the resistant list of all the chemical cargoes. Each cargo will have either of
these atleast these three options

cargo is acceptable

cargo is not acceptable

Cargo is acceptable with some restrictions

Now lets see the coating manual of this ship. Let us look for cargo “TDI” and “Palm fatty acid Distillates”
to see if the coating is resistant to this cargo.
As we can see TDI can be loaded without any restrictions.

For Palm Fatty acid Distillate, you can see above that we can load this but it has a notation no 2. We need
to look at the coating manual for the explanation note of this.

For example for this cargo, it meant that fatty acid content of the cargo should not be more than 10%. In
this case we need to inform charterers about this. Charterers will get this confirmed from the shipper.
Before their written confirmation of the fatty acid content is received, you should not load this cargo.

d) Check Heating requirements

Some cargoes require heating during the voyage. Charterers instruction may include maintaining a
minimum temperature during the voyage and having a minimum temperature during discharge.

On chemical tankers sometimes we are required to maintain cargo temperature as high as 80 C

with ambient temperature as low as -15 C.

While planning a stowage chief officer must check if the ship has the capability to heat the cargo to that

If the vessel is not capable of heating to that extent, this cargo should not be loaded.

Fulfilling the requirements for carriage of a cargo

Even when the ship is designed to load a particular chemical, each chemical can have its own

These requirements can be checked from four sources.

Footnotes mentioned against the cargo in COF

Chpater 17 of the IBC code

Milbros or Miracle software

Charterers voyage instructions

While each of this source can have some overlapping requirements, it is important to go through each
such sources.

Chapter 17 of the IBC code is the best way to start with finding the special requirements for a cargo.
Let us discuss some of the requirements you should check for each cargo

a. Safety equipments

Chapter 14 of the IBC code lists the safety equipment requirements with respect to chemicals.

For example, the ships carrying cargoes for which 15.12, 15.12.1 or 15.12.3 is listed in column O of
chapter 17 should have 3 IBC sets which contains

Chemical Suits

SCBA sets of 20 minutes air

Another requirement as per chapter 14.3 is to have ELSA for every person onboard for the cargoes that
have “yes” marked in column n of chapter 17.

For toxic cargoes, it is required to have antidote for that cargoes.

While planning the stowage, Chief officer need to keep in mind if these equipments are available. If not
then he should inform to the company immediately.

b. Drager tubes

To be safe on chemical tankers, it is important to measure the presence of toxic gas in the area accessed
by the crew. Each cargo can release a different toxic gas and as such need equipment to measure it.

Drager and Gastec are two of such equipments that mesures toxic gas concentration. The Drager and
Gastec have pump that uses tubes to measure toxic gases. Each type of toxic gas has its own tube.
Before loading the cargo, chief officer must ensure that he has drager (or Gastec) tubes for the toxic
vapours that require measuring.

But not all cargoes are toxic and not all cargoes have the drager tubes available. To check this, again you
can use Milbros or Miracle software.

In the Milbros software, search for the commodity and go to Safety/MSDS section. You can find the
information regarding Drager and Gastec tubes applicable for that cargo.

c) PV Valves

There has been a new requirement for the PV valves on chemical tankers. Check if in chapter 17 of IBC
code, the column i” shows IIB requirement for the cargo. If yes, vessel need to have new type of PV
valves which are MSC/Circ.677 IIB compliant.

Stowage of the cargo

So you have checked and found that you can load the intended cargoes. You have also ensured that you
have all the required safety equipments on board. Now the time is to make the stowage plan. There are
number of things that you need to keep in mind while planning the stowage. Let us see each of it.

a) Cargo compatibility
Some chemicals react with each other. We call these incompatible chemicals. These chemicals cannot be
stowed adjacent to each other. This be because of the simple reason that if there is a crack in the
common bulkhead, it can lead to disastrous situation.

For example any acid cargo cannot be stored next to bases like Caustic soda solution.

Most common method of checking if two cargoes are compatible or not is the compatibility chart from
US coast gaurd. USCG has released full guidelines on compatibility of chemical cargoes which if you like
you can download by clicking here.

Bottom line that you need to keep in mind is not to stow any incompatible cargoes together.

b) Cargo density

Cargo density of the chemicals loaded on chemical tanker can vary drastically. Once you may be asked to
load a cargo of density as low as 0.7 and then that which have density as high as 1.9.

Chief officer must know what is the allowed cargo density for the vessel. You can find this information in
vessel’s “Procedure and arrangement manual”.
For example let us assume that the allowed maximum density is 1.025. If we need to load a cargo that
has a density more than 1.025, we need to load the quantity that does not exceed the load density of
the cargo tank.

For example, let us say that a cargo tank has total volume of 3000 M3 and maximum allowed load
density of 1.025. This tank can load a total of 3075 MT (3000 x 1.025) of cargo. Now if we need to load a
cargo with density 1.5, we can only load 2050 m3 ( 3075 / 1.5) volume in that. The whole idea is not to
exceed total weight of 3075 MT in this case.

Bottom line, keep in mind the allowed load density of your tanks while planning stowage.

c) Adjacent cargo temperature restrictions

Some cargoes have restriction of maximum adjacent temperature that you can have. For example we
cannot load a polymerising cargo such as Styrene monomer adjacent to a heated cargo such as palm oil.

These are the cargoes for which chapter 16.6 of IBC code applies. If in column o of the chapter 17 IBC
code mentions 16.6, these restriction would apply to that cargo.

Apart from polymerising cargoes, some cargoes can become off-spec if it is loaded adjacent to a high
temperature cargo. IBC code does not take into account the quality of the cargo. So if any cargo has any
restriction regarding adjacent temperature, the charterers need to advise in their voyage instructions.

You can also find a fair idea from the Milbros/Miracle software.

If Milbros software mentions these restrictions but your voyage instructions don’t, then you may need to
clarify from the charterer regarding any of such limitations.

Bottom line, do not stow a heat sensitive cargo adjacent to the heated cargo.

d) Stability and strength in each leg

While we have to check the stability of every ship we work on but there is something more with
chemical tankers.

For example I have worked on chemical tanker with 39 cargo tanks carrying 20 grades of cargo at a time.
Some people work on chemical tankers with as many as 50 cargo tanks.

This makes the satisfying of intact stability, strength, damage stability and drafts and trim requirements
a challenge for chief officer.

And there is no other way than checking each leg on the loadicator. This off course takes a lot of time.
Charterers at times may want you to send the stowage plan in seconds. But you have a responsibility
that a person sitting on other end may not be able to fathom.

Bottom line is you should make it quick if the stowage plan is urgently required but not before checking
each leg on the loadicator.


Cargo stowage planning on chemical tanker is not like other vessels. There are number of factors that
need to be checked to ensure that chemicals can be loaded, carried and discharged safely.