Things To Learn About Ship Enclosed Space Entry

All ocean-going vessels are meant to have enclosed spaces, which all individuals on board most know and keep the rules behind them. This is because of the high risk of life loss in case of entering those areas without proper safety precautions.
It is very unfortunate that some officers ( both experienced and none) who have obtained a certificate of competency does not have the full understanding about enclose space.

Some seafarers who work on board cargo ships ( eg. Container, Ro-Ro, bulk carrier, etc) use to think… it’s only onboard tanker ships required more knowledge about enclose space. The answer is NO. I would like to tell you a story about an INTERVIEW, held by Mr. George with the second mate who was seeking for chief mate promotion.

“It was a beautiful morning back in 2008 when he (Mr George) was due to interview a second mate who was requesting to be promoted to chief mate. He had the required time in rank as per ABC policy as well as pretty good appraisals from his senior officers.

After a brief introduction, he asked the second mate if he felt ready to take over the duties of a chief mate on board one of their tanker vessel. His reply was “Yes, of course I am. I know everything”.

The crewing manager opened their Safety Management System (SMS) and questioned him on what his duties would be if he was promoted to chief mate.

According to the crewing manager, the 2nd mate recognised about 50% of the duties that he would be expected to perform. Since the second mate apparently had performed well enough on board to obtain positive promotion appraisals,the crewing manager continue digging more further, to be much more sure of the second mate.

Here is a script of their interview conversation ;

Crewing manager: Could you please let me know the definition of what is an enclosed space?

Second Mate: It is a closed area where there is only one door.

At that point he (the crewing manager) stood up, asked the SM to follow him and CM took him all the way to the office toilet; a perfect illustration of his answer, a closed area with one door. Hoping that the SM would realise his mistake.

CM: This is a closed area with one door only. Would you consider this being an enclosed space?

He (SM) looked perplexed as he realised that his previous definition of an enclosed space was not as accurate as he would have wished.

SM: No, this is not an enclosed space.

They went back to their seats and continued discussion.

CM: From what I see, you have quite a fair amount of experience on board vessels. Have you ever been inside a ballast tank?

SM: YES, I have been inside.

CM: Is the ballast tank an enclosed space?

SM: YES it is.

CM: But to the best of my knowledge, ballast tanks have in excess of one entry point. They usually have two or more in case of bigger sized vessels. Is that correct?

SM: YES, this is correct.

CM: But then according to your initial definition of an enclosed space, you said that the main characteristic is that they have only one entry point.

SM: No, no… I was mistake. They could have more than one entry point.

CM: Maybe you would like to rethink the definition and tell me again what an enclosed space is?

SM: An enclosed space is an area which is close for a long time, creating problems with oxygen.

CM: Do you have a car?

SM: YES.. I have.

CM: Do you consider your car as an enclosed space?

SM: No, why?

CM: Because it is close for a long time and this would create a problem with oxygen, as per your last definition.

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Now to cut the story short, of course, this crewing manager will definitely see all captains appraisal reviews as manipulated one while rejecting the promotion. Duo he gave the second mate a 2nd chance to come back for another interview after reading their company SMS. But the fact remains first impressions matters.

What to learn from the enclosed space question.

Possibly the young officer may know all of the practical aspects of the job, but note, theoretically he can’t prove it. Which send a red signal to confirm risk to the ship and other crews. Remember being an officer on board, you have not only your job responsibilities but as well teach and direct your junior officers/ratings.

Someone may ask, but he is the first time, the second mate, the captain is there to help… What if the captain doesn’t know either?

The real definition of an enclosed space

Following the maritime definition of an enclosed space, it’s a shipboard space in which the atmosphere is oxygen-depleted, toxic and/or flammable. Their characteristics include; unfavorable natural ventilation, limited openings for entry and exit, not designed for continuous crew occupancy and includes, but is not limited to pump room, cargo space, cofferdams, etc

enclose space
Enclose space entry – photo edited from, all rights reserved

More examples of an enclosed space are; Tanks, duct keels, ballast tanks fuel tanks, boiler furnace, engine crankcase, scavenge space of main engine and other similar.

It’s the duty of all crew to make sure they obtain enclose space permit before entering such areas. This is to make ensure that all required procedures observed to avoid loss of life due to oxygen loss in the space.

What are the procedures require before entering enclose space?

According to the SOLAS resolution A.864(20), adopted on 27th November 1997, it recommended for every enclosed space to properly vent and test for sufficient oxygen and/or free from flammable gas etc before entering.

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