Each chemical cargo needs class approval for the intended tanker, a process that can slow down the charterer process. To address this issue, ABS has developed ABS CHEM, a simple solution to a complex problem
Every chemical carried by sea has its own safety requirements, and while types of chemicals can be grouped into categories, when it comes to monitoring and temperature, each has to be treated differently. This puts a strain on the chartering process, where running the vessel configuration against cargo safety requirements has, until now, required manual checking and verification by the owner, followed by submission of a request for verification by class.
The speed of response in this process is critical because, even while a vessel is approaching port to discharge, the chartering department will be looking for a return cargo. If a customer has stems available, then the chartering team will want to start negotiating rates as soon as possible.
A delay in discovering that the ship is not suitable to carry a specific chemical cargo could result in lost business and by the time a substitute is found, the opportunity may have gone. With other operators ready to bid, time is of the essence and the faster the owner can confirm the vessel the better.
Of course, safety is paramount, but there can be confusion caused by new product releases, name changes for existing chemicals and differing agreements between countries, which means that owners must regularly work with class to obtain an addendum to their Certificate of Fitness (CoF) in order to carry the named cargo.
"A delay in discovering that the ship is not suitable to carry a specific chemical cargo could result in lost business"
The obvious solution is a giant database of all possible chemical cargoes listed against the ships in question. However, not only would this be time consuming to maintain, the resulting configuration of cargoes would still require class approval – unless the database was maintained by class.
This is the genius behind ABS CHEM: a unique client-focussed version of the software used by the ABS engineering department to determine if vessel characteristics match cargo criteria.
Owners will often have a general idea of the vessel configuration, but rather than be forced to check pages of documentation to see if ship and cargo are compatible, ABS CHEM allows them to enter full vessel details just once. When a new cargo is identified they can quickly check to obtain a preliminary decision on whether carriage is permitted.
The owner must still seek final approval from the ABS engineering department, but by using ABS CHEM for a preliminary approval, the operations team can continue scheduling and even loading operations, knowing that they will likely obtain the addendum. Where they discover that the vessel is incompatible with the cargo, they can save the cost of the class society verification.
Having dramatically reduced the time needed for owners to gain initial approval for their vessels, ABS is working to reduce the feedback cycle still further. Plans are being developed to enable the export of existing ship characteristics held by ABS into the ‘owner version’ of ABS CHEM, shortening the process and allowing both parties to access the same data set.
According to ABS, this service is unique, and only available from ABS. The class society states that ABS CHEM fulfils the ABS mission of supporting the safe carriage of chemical cargoes, since the CoF addendum is only granted if the vessel is deemed to have the correct configuration to make the voyage in accordance with class rules.
In a multi-cargo, multi discharge environment like the chemical tanker sector, it means that chartering and operations staff can plan and prepare in advance. They have a degree of confidence that approval will be given - even before the laden vessel has discharged - knowing the vessel can meet charterer requirements; this could make the difference between fixing and missing the next cargo.