Importance of manifold and first foot samples at load ports

Norway-based marine insurer Gard has published an article emphasizing the importance of manifold and first foot samples at load ports. It said that abiding by the standard tanker practices of sampling when loading petroleum products could save owners millions of dollars in claims, as well as preventing loss of time and ensuing losses for charterers and shipowners. “When it comes to dealing with liquid cargo contamination claims, majority of the losses could have been avoided if the vessel had followed basic tanker seamanship practice”, Gard said.

Gard noted that in the past it had highlighted the importance of manifold samples as the multimillion dollar samples for tankers. Its latest alert focused on the importance of the manifold and first foot samples, and the lessons Gard had learnt from cases arising in the Black Sea ports.

A recent notification from its correspondent Novorissiysk Insurance Co Nostra Ltd highlighted several cases of flash point depression in gasoil cargoes that were loaded after cargoes of naphtha or unleaded gasoline. One common factor was that the charterers/shippers continued to load the cargo either without prompt testing of the first foot sample, or in the hope that cargo would be blended off to correct flash point, even after the first foot samples were found to be off spec on flash point. Generally, the shipowners or the master were not informed of the results of the analysis until it was too late.

In most of the cases handled by Gard’s correspondents, after the first foot had been loaded into the first pair of tanks, the loading was switched to other sets of tanks and resumed back into all tanks including the first pair after the first foot sample had been drawn. Unfortunately, the sample drawn was not tested until the first foot sample from each of the tanks had been collected. By this time the first pair of tanks and a few other tanks had been loaded with substantial quantities. Gard observed that this practice was apparently intended to save time in loading, but noted that it had often resulted in downtime in disputes and mitigating the losses.

Gard said that this was unusual in Gard’s experience as the standard practice was to load the first foot in one pair of tanks and conduct a lab analysis on the samples taken to confirm that cargo is on/off spec before resuming loading in all the tanks. Gard warned that there was “a significant difference in the quantity and cost of the off-spec cargo between the first foot sample from one set of tanks being off spec when compared to varying levels of cargo in 10 to 14 tanks”. While a first foot sample being off-spec would generate a cargo claim for a quantity of about 170 MT the average varying level in 14 tanks could be as much as 13,000 MT.

In terms of costs, 13,000 MT of off spec cargo could generate millions of dollars in claims, not only for the contaminated cargo, but also for associated expenses related to delay of the vessel. “All this for a failure to apply basic tanker seamanship of testing the first foot sample early in time”, said Gard.