The loading of fuel oil into a ship's tanks from a shoreside installation or bunker barge takes place about once a trip. The penalties for oil spills are large, the damage to the environment is considerable, and the ship may well be delayed or even arrested if this job is not properly carried out.
Bunkering is traditionally the fourth engineer's job. He will usually be assisted by at least one other engineer and one or more ratings. Most ships will have a set procedure which is to be followed or some form of general instructions which might include:
1. AH scuppers are to be sealed off, i.e. plugged, to prevent any minor oil spill on deck going overboard.
2. All tank air vent containments or drip trays are to be sealed or plugged.
3. Sawdust should be available at the bunkering station and various positions around the deck.
4. All fuel tank valves should be carefully checked before bunkering commences. The personnel involved should be quite familiar with the piping systems, tank valves, spill tanks and all tank-sounding equipment.
5. All valves on tanks which are not to be used should be closed or switched to the 'off position and effectively safeguarded against opening or operation.
6. Any manual valves in the filling lines should be proved to be open for the flow of liquid.
7. Proven, reliable tank-sounding equipment must be used to regularly check the contents of each tank. It may even be necessary to 'dip' or manually sound tanks to be certain of their contents.
8. A complete set of all tank soundings must be obtained before bunkering commences.
9. A suitable means of communication must be set up between the ship and the bunkering installation before bunkering commences.
10. On-board communication between involved personnel should be by hand radio sets or some other satisfactory means.
11. Any tank that is filling should be identified in some way on the level indicator, possibly by a sign or marker reading 'FILLING'.
12. In the event of a spill, the Port Authorities should be informed as soon as possible to enable appropriate cleaning measures to be taken.