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Hazards On Oil Tanker Ship

Just like the petroleum industry, oil tankers are playing a key role in running the world providing an adequate amount of oil to every nation. Transporting about 800,000- 1,000,000 barrels of oil globally and helping their economies to run at their good pace, hence with many great responsibilities comes great risk. Safety is the foundation of every operation onboard or ashore. Any single minor mistake, malfunctioning, or neglect from the duties can lead to a disaster. Even small negligence from the responsibilities can cost a huge impact on human life as well as marine life and the environment. Hence just like every other type of vessel, an oil tanker requires a well-trained crew and proper vigilance.

What are the hazards on oil tankers?

    1. Skin contact with petroleum may cause irritation and dermatitis and may lead to a serious burn.
    2. Ingestion of petroleum may cause nausea and discomfort.
    3. Inhalation of petroleum vapors may cause suffocation, headache, dizziness and in some circumstances may lead to paralysis and even death.

Pollution is one of the highly concerned risks while transporting oil or chemicals, a cargo like this affects both human and marine life.


Liquid cargoes may react in several ways i.e. through the air, water, with another cargo, tank walls, or through polymerization. Polymerization is the formation of larger molecules as a result of self-reaction, presence of impurities in the cargo may act as a catalyst on the reactivity of cargoes, and under some uncommon circumstances, and this can become dangerous.


Sources of ignition onboard can be:

  1. Direct Heat
  2. Mechanical Spark
  3. Chemical Energy
  4. Electrical Energy
  5. Flammable Vapors
  6. Static Electricity (arises when two dissimilar materials come in contact)
  7. Toxicity

It is the degree to which a substance of mixture of substances can harm humans or animals.

The 4 main ways through which it can affect are-

  1. Ingestion
  2. Skin Contact
  3. Inhalation
  4. Systemic Effect

What are the biggest hazards of oil cargo?


While performing the task of entering enclosed spaces with special reference to the cargo tanks a person can encounter a lack of oxygen and poisonous hydrocarbon vapor a few seconds in hydrocarbon vapor can lead to casualty and even death, therefore company’s and standardized procedure must be followed at all times to avoid any mishappening. Proper ventilation should be provided at all times during this task and should be regularly checked by the authorized and calibrated gas measuring equipment. Permit to work should be assigned and only trained personnel should be allowed to enter the enclosed space.

  • FIRE

Liquid cargo on a tanker has flammable hydrocarbon vapors, these vapors can be present anywhere on the deck as they are heavier than air so one should always assume that the vapors are present and act accordingly. Permit to work should be assigned for any work to be done especially the hot work, only intrinsically approved equipment must be used and insulation must be intact all the time.


The major hazard while dealing with hazardous and poisonous oleaginous cargo is pollution. This cargo is both harmful for human and marine life, even a small amount of oil spill or leak can become a major hazard and it can give rise to fire and further leading to a bigger disaster. MARPOL Annex-1 states the regulation for the prevention of oil pollution by the ships at sea and must be understood and followed by all the crew members, and shall also be familiarized with Shipboard Oil Pollution and Emergency Plan (SOPEP) especially their location and emergency procedures to be followed at the time of any oil spill.

Hazards On Oil Tanker

While dealing with the liquid cargo all the necessary precautions must be taken, Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), Cargo Manual, Tanker Safety Guide, International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers and Terminals (ISGOTT) provides information about every particular cargo and precaution which are needed to be taken care of, as these cargoes are highly reactive and corrosive. Proper inspection of the cargo tanks must be taken regularly. Weather and wind play an essential role while loading and unloading operations, hence are required to be taken into consideration.

What is the most dangerous place on tankers?

The pump room is the heart and soul of an oil tanker, as all the major cargo operation at the terminal or out at sea operates from that particular area. Special checks and inspections are to be done at all times. There is a high risk of slips, fall, and cuts as any leakage or any small amount of spill can lead to a disaster, hence proper maintenance of all the machinery and the pipelines is to be done on regular basis to avoid any mishappening, all the precautionary mark such as hotlines should be marked on the pipes in the pump room.

Enclosed spaces and cargo tanks are also considered one of the most dangerous places on the tanker because of oxygen deficiency and the presence of hydrocarbon vapor, as proper ventilation is required.  Calibrated and intrinsic measuring equipment should be used and careful observation and attentiveness are required at all times while working in an enclosed space.

What are shipboard hazards?

Working out at sea miles away from the land and facing different kinds of weather conditions every other day, creates many kinds of hazard which can cause casualty and even death. Good seamanship practices are required by every crew member irrespective of their rank to maintain a safe environment.

The most common shipboard hazards are-


Accidents can occur as a result of several reasons on board, especially while working on deck or in any enclosed space proper attentiveness is required to avoid slipping or tripping which may cause casualty or loss of body parts.

While working at a height proper safety precautions are required such as a safety harness and a lookout person to avoid falling or other similar casualties.


One of the lethal situations on board where the vessel and the crew are attacked by the pirates causing harm to the crew members and the vessel.


The most common cause of serious injuries and deaths on board ships is from the mooring operations and is considered an extraordinary dangerous task that requires proper skill and should avoid the snap-back zone at all-time possible.


The most common type of accident onboard ships, which results in several casualties and injuries. when the ship’s crew enter a confined or enclosed space that is not properly gas-freed and has several pockets of toxic and flammable gases. The crew must be extremely cautious while entering enclosed spaces and follow Permit to Work authorized procedures.


Electrical shocks have also caused many casualties and have taken several lives on board. Failure in taking necessary precautions, unattended electrical connections, naked wires, and other possible situations can lead to many regrettable incidents.


The most dangerous shipboard hazard is falling off-board which can occur due to any reason and rescue become another tough task, rough seas, and bad weather can make this operation difficult. The water temperature can also cause hypothermia which can cause death. Several seafarers have lost their lives in the past because of such accidents.


Hot Work is one of the crucial operations which is carried out onboard especially on tankers as the flammable hydrocarbon vapors are present all around the deck and all in the confined spaces, hence authorized checklists and permit to work should be followed as even a little spark can cause an unfortunate explosion.

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