Contingency Planning

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What is Contingency Planning

contingency planning

Contingency Planning means preparing a documented plan for emergencies and to ensure all on board are trained and exercised toward its execution. Every seafarer is required to be prepared for emergencies. Such preparedness can only be built in through well laid out plans, training programmes and properly worked out exercises. A study of a number of casualties have shown that seafarers tend to panic in an emergency as there is no contingency plan and most crew members are not aware of the task they should jump to in an incident. This can only be avoided by suitable contingency plan, for each type of emergency and by carrying out regular drills. 

Whatever You Do Be Prepared

1. The plan below takes into account the formation of an emergency squad, which jumps to action in every emergency and directs the controlling and monitoring action. The emergency squad is somewhat like the fire brigade. It gets into action for every emergency and then gets other services involved.

2. Training 

All personal must receive instruction in: 

⦿ What is an emergency?

⦿ Procedures for raising the alarm. 

⦿ Action to be taken upon discovery of a fire or other emergency. 

⦿ Function of the Emergency Organisation. 

⦿ Use of safety equipments including Breathing Apparatus,  SCBA etc. 

⦿ Preparation and lowering of lifeboats, life rafts etc. 

⦿ Closing down procedures. (To cut off oxygen for preventing spread of fire) 

⦿ Rescue from enclosed spaces. 

3. The emergency squad shall train and rehearse the necessary actions in any type of emergency that may arise and shall familiarise themselves with all parts of the ship, and with different types of apparatus suitable for handling different types of emergencies. 

4. Additional training shall be provided for officers, petty officers and senior ratings in the operation of the following: 

⦿ Emergency Generator 

⦿ Emergency Fire Pump. 

⦿ Lifeboat Engines. 

⦿ EPIRB / SART / transmission of distress signals on HF/MF/VHF DSC and on SATCOM. 

⦿ Line throwing apparatus/pyrotechnics. 

⦿ Preparation of towing cable connection (Where fitted) 

⦿ Emergency Steering 

5. Emergency exercises 

An emergency exercise should be held once a week. This should alternate between exercising the Emergency Organisation in simulated emergency conditions, and training in the use and operation of systems and equipment. Exercises should be planned with care, and dull routines avoided; the use of substitutes and reserves should be included from time to time. Emergency training and drills shall be carried out in accordance with SOLAS. As far as possible Lifeboats should be swung out as part of emergency exercise and be lowered into the water and manoeuvred when in port at least every 3 m 

6. Debriefing after exercises

Debriefing is an evaluation of the exercise, which should take place after each exercise. All officers and crew should be encouraged to participate. 

7. Local emergency procedures —general 

⦿ Anyone may initiate an emergency by simply pressing the emergency alarm switch. This shall bring the emergency party to the emergency headquarters and alert the remaining members of the emergency organisation. 

⦿ A person having sounded the emergency alarms must also report the location and nature of the emergency to the bridge or to the emergency headquarters. 

⦿ The emergency squad shall muster at the emergency party to the emergency headquarters with the utmost speed. 

⦿ The first officer to arrive at the Emergency Headquarters shall contact the Bridge to advise or enquire about the nature and location of the emergency. 

⦿ In any case, communications must be established with the Master. On leaving the Emergency Headquarters, the emergency Squad shall maintain continuous communication with portable VHF transceivers 

⦿ A system of checking that all personnel have been accounted for should be established. 

⦿ Personnel assigned with special duties shall proceed to their stations. 

⦿ The first aid and provision squad shall proceed to their muster point. 

⦿ The support squad shall muster and await instructions. 

⦿ Wives and supernumeraries shall report to the Bridge for instructions. 

⦿ Communications shall be established between Bridge and Engine room. 

⦿ The emergency squad shall collect the necessary equipment and proceed to the scene of the emergency. 

8. Support Squad 

The support squad shall muster at their assigned position and their main duties shall be to :-

⦿ Supply extra equipment to the emergency squad. 

⦿ Provide extra (or substitute) manpower.

⦿ Form additional hose parties if required. 

⦿ Conduct boundary cooling or boundary starvation as directed. 

⦿ Prepare lifeboats and life rafts if required. 


Enclosed places have been the most hazardous area on the ship. Accidents continue to take place when seafarers enter such spaces and suffer fatally. It s therefore important to familiarise the crew with such spaces and a proper drill. 

9. Rescue from an enclosed space (pump room, tank etc) 

No attempt to rescue a person from any enclosed space shall be made unless compressed air breathing apparatus is utilised. Person in a space may be affected by toxic vapour or lack of oxygen and the rescue should be planned accordingly. 

AT LEAST THREE PERSONS working as a team shall be required to rescue a victim from a pump room or enclosed space. More may be necessary to rescue a victim from a large cargo tank/hold. The rescue operation shall depend upon the circumstances, and can be divided into two basic situations: 

⦿ Where the victim is still breathing when the rescue team arrives, he may be partially conscious or even unconscious. 

⦿ Where the victim has stopped breathing when the rescue teams arrive. In this case, he may be unconscious. 

In either situation, the rescuers must administer oxygen or air to the victim in the shortest possible time. When a person has been overcome by toxic vapour or lack of oxygen the normal supply of oxygen to the brain ceases and permanent brain damage may result unless the oxygen supply is quickly restarted. 

The length of time before brain damage occurs depends on the concentrations of gas, the amount of oxygen present and the condition of the victim. In most situations, the rescuers must be able to reach the victim(s) and commence administering resuscitation within 4 Minutes of the casualty losing consciousness. 

10. Discovery of a fire 

Most fires are small to start with and can often be extinguished by rapid application of a portable extinguisher or other appliance. Where it is possible to do this without risk of becoming trapped by flames or smoke, the person discovering the fire should take such action AFTER sending someone else to raise the alarm. 

Greater caution is necessary where smoke is seen passing a closed door. Opening the door could cause the fire to flare up and spread rapidly making it impossible to close the door again. This action should therefore be avoided unless it Is believed that there may be someone trapped inside In which case the door should only be opened after first feeling it make sure it is not hot, and then keeping low and opening it very carefully. If the compartment is thought to be unoccupied or if the door is hot, it is much safer to keep it closed until the Emergency Squad are ready with charged hoses. 

Accommodation Fire

vessel fire

The emergency squad must consider the following when tackling an Accommodation, Storeroom or Gallery fire: –

⦿ The speed with which the fire is tackled is of the utmost importance. 

⦿ The accommodation shall probably fill with smoke and the breathing apparatus shall be necessary, as shall be the protective clothing. 

⦿ Water spray shall be used. 

⦿ Knowledge of the accommodation layout is essential —the fire fighters May be operating “blind”. 

⦿ Ventilation fans should be stopped and fire flaps closed. 

⦿ Electrical currents should be isolated to avoid the danger of water acting as a conductor on “live” circuits. 

⦿ Fire fighters shall always operate in pairs. 

⦿ Boundary cooling is essential. Every compartment on fire has 6 sides. 

The chief officer or the officer in charge of the emergency squad shall keep the master informed of the situation and of progress in fighting the fire by Walkie-talkie or telephone and request assistance necessary for boundary cooling, evacuation of injured or restriction of ventilation etc. 

Engine Room Fire


The engine room is a high-risk area with most of the combustible materials being CLASS B (oil). Although a fire may start from an electrical source it shall, if unchecked, very likely spread to oils and fuels. 

Foam is the best fire-fighting medium to fight an oil fire and the Emergency squad shall proceed to the scene of a fire in the Engine room with the portable foam making equipment.

If an outbreak of fire is too large to be tackled in this way personnel in the engine room should first assemble in the Control Room. The senior officer should then decide whether an attempt should be made to tackle the fire with hoses and foam or whether the engine room should be evacuated. He shall keep in continuous contact with the bridge by telephone. Needless to say such decisions and necessary actions must be taken quickly and must be conveyed to all. 

The chief officer shall take charge of supporting operations such as: –

⦿ Arranging the supply of additional equipment and foam compound and 

⦿ Taking such actions as are necessary to prevent the spread of fire outside of the machinery spaces, and 

⦿ Arranging the evacuation of any casualties. 

The chief engineer shall have overall charge of the situation and shall keep the master closely informed. He shall assess whether the fire can be contained by means of portable appliances or whether activation of the CO2 or foam system is necessary and shall advise the Master accordingly. 

The chief engineer shall also ensure that emergency stops, fuel trips, etc. have been activated as the situation may require and that emergency power and the fire pump have been started.

Galley Fat Fires


Cooking oils can be readily heated to their ignition temperature and serious fires can result. Water must never be used when tackling such fires as a violent boil-over may result. Preferred method of controlling such fire is smothering with a fire blanket or the application of dry powder. Fully trained personnel only should use foam due to the risk of watery foam resulting in a boil-over. 

The flammable vapours given off by overheated cooking oils and fat are readily ignited and the danger shall persist until the material has cooled to below its ignition temperature. 

Galleys should always be regarded as areas of high fire risk and deep-friars must never be left unattended when being used. Fires can spread readily through grease-coated vent ducts and these must be cleaned at least once a week. The filter in the ventilation duct must also be kept clean as oil gets trapped therein and could be a source of fire.

Man Overboard


The signal for man overboard is the same as that for local emergency stations. At sea international code signal ‘O’ (three dashes) shall be sounded on the whistle or fire alarm. 

The action to be taken shall be similar regardless of whether a person has fallen overboard from own ship or a person from another vessel or craft is seen already in the water. 

Anyone seeing a person in the water should immediately throw a lifebuoy and raise the alarm. 

The emergency squad shall muster at the emergency headquarters and then proceed to the boat. The boat crew shall wear Lifejackets and a spare lifejackets be carried for the casualty. As far as practicable crew shall wear an immersion suit. 

The chief officer shall take charge of lowering the boat. A deck officer shall be in charge of the boat. An engineer shall be in charge of the boat engine. The boat’s crew shall be members of the emergency squad. 

The officer of the watch shall adopt the following procedure in the event of a man overboard: – 


⦿ Commence the Williamson tun or 60 —60 turn, 

⦿ Release a lifebuoy from the bridge wing on the side the person has fallen overboard. Additional lifebuoys may also be released to mark the location. 

⦿ Sound emergency stations. 

⦿ Post two lookouts with binoculars. 

⦿ Put the engines at stand-by below and inform the engine room. 

⦿ Instruct the emergency squad to go to accident boat stations. 

⦿ If a night, arrange for an extra man to operate the searchlight or signalling lamp. 

Collision and Grounding


The chief officer shall establish the extent of the damage following a collision or grounding, if the point of impact is Outside the machinery spaces. He shall reporT to the master and take whatever action necessary to deal with the damage and to stop the ingress off water.

The master shall, together with the Chief Officer, calculate the effect off the damage on the vessel’s stability and stress before ordering any redistribution of weights (transfer of ballast, etc) The second engineer shall take charge if the point of impact is within the Machinery spaces. 

The chief engineer shall take charge of pumping out arrangements. The master must be kept informed of problems and progress. 

Incident at the Manifold or Tank Overflow


The cargo manifold constitutes a high-risk area. Since a number of different products may be loaded and discharged at the same time, it is important to be able to identify the cargo involved and emergency situation. All officers must study the data sheets for the cargoes being handled before operations commence. Such sheets shall be available in the cargo office or other designated place. In all cases the shore authorities must be informed without delay. 

The Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan (SOPEP) has been prepared to deal with-

⦿ A spillage through a burst hose, fractured hose or tank overflow (not resulting in a fire) involving either: 

i. Poisonous products. 

ii. Corrosive products 

iii. Flammable products. 

⦿ Inflammable product resulting in a fire. 

In either case the first action must be to stop the flow of product through the fracture and to stop all cargo operations. If the vessel is discharging, operating the emergency stops to the cargo pump and closing a valve between the pump and fracture in the affected line is an effective method. Before commencement of loading various hazardous cargoes, the chief officer must ascertain if the ship’s valves can be shut against the shore pumps, and the minimum time permissible to shut the value. Such information shall be displayed prominently in the cargo office and at the Tank manifold. 

If the vessel is loading it shall be necessary for the shore installation to stop loading, therefore secure means of communications or special signals must be established before loading is commenced. 

The second action must be to raise the emergency alarm and report the emergency. Consideration should then be given to closing down any open tank hatches adjacent to the spill. 

The emergency parties shall deal with the situation under the direction of the chief officer or master. 

Spillage of toxic or poisonous products or burning product giving off toxic fumes 

The emergency parties shall require breathing apparatus and protective clothing to deal with a spillage involving a toxic cargo. EMS and MFAG of relevant IMDG code to be consulted so as to be forewarned about the nature of hazards expected white dealing with the spillage. 

Personnel not so protected must not be allowed on deck and shall muster inside the accommodation, to windward of the affected area and with their short duration escape breathing apparatus. 

The accommodation should be closed down with the utmost speed in order to stop any toxic vapours entering. If necessary, the accommodation ventilation /air conditioning should be switched to recirculation. Those inside the accommodation should be prepared to leave the ship should circumstances make this necessary. 

On deck the emergency parties, suitably protected, shall stop the flow of product and attempt to cover the spillage with foam if burning. Toxic or other poisonous products may be washed overboard if the ship is at sea or contained and pumped back into slop tank if in port. 

Should it be impossible to control the spillage the master or chief officer must be prepared to order evacuation of the crew from the area or the abandonment of the ship? 

Spillage of Corrosive Product

The chief officer or master shall direct the emergency parties to wash away any spillage or corrosive cargo, using as many fire hoses as possible. The emergency parties should approach the area from the same direction being careful to avoid splashing each other with the corrosive liquid. 

If it is necessary to confine a spillage, only sand or other inert materials should be used. On no account should fibrous materials (sawdust, cloth) be used due to the possibility of spontaneous combustion. 

It must be remembered that hydrogen may be produced when a corrosive product comes in contact with the steel deck. It may be necessary therefore to take extra precautions to ensure that all possible sources of ignition are isolated and the accommodation closed down.

Spillage of Flammable Product

The large surface area created by a spillage of a flammable product shall allow vapour to be given off and if a rapidly expanding vapour cloud reaches a source of ignition, the resulting fire could be disastrous. The emergency parties should therefore cover the spillage with foam as soon as possible in order to stop the vapour being released. It is also important to ensue that all possible sources of ignition are isolated or removed. If the spillage should result in a fire, the emergency parties shall bring as many foam monitors and branch pipes into action, as soon as possible. 

The procedure for closing down the accommodation in the event of this emergency shall be – 

⦿ Close all outside doors. 

⦿ Close wheelhouse doors 

⦿ Close main air inlet vent. 

⦿ Close off vent to sanitary space and stop fans. 

⦿ Close off vent to day and mess rooms and stop fans. 

⦿ Close off exhaust ducts from alleyways. 

⦿ Stop galley vent fans and close flaps. Open internal galley doors. 

⦿ Stop ventilation to provision rooms and close vents. Stop hospital fan and close flaps. 

Tank Explosion


An explosion in a cargo tank is the most serious situation that any emergency organization can be called upon to fight. In the loaded condition there shall probably be little that the emergency parties can achieve, and the saving of life is of paramount importance. In the ballast condition there may be a greater chance of taking some effective action. 

The master should consider the following points after such an explosion 

⦿ Possibilities of isolating the resultant fire by the emergency parties putting up a “water wall” around the periphery of afire. 

⦿ Arresting the transfer of heat into adjacent accommodation spaces by spraying poop front bulkheads etc. 

⦿ Bringing foam-making equipment into action. 

⦿ Evacuation of “non-essential personnel” 

⦿ Adjust course and speed as necessary to minimise the fire spread. 


Any possible action shall be dictated by circumstances (the ability to provide water on deck etc) but it is the duty of the master and the emergency organisation to do all in their power to combat the situation even if the “non-essential personnel” have to leave the ship. 

In ships fitted with a fixed CO2 or foam fire extinguishing system in their cargo pumprooms, the master may consider inerting this space in order to prevent the spread of fire to an adjacent tank. Before ordering this action to be taken, the master must be satisfied that there is no chance of there being sufficient hydrocarbon vapours in the pumproom or cofferdams to support combustion (an explosion). 

It must be remembered that electrostatic separation may occur at the nozzles thus producing a possible source of ignition (in the form of charged frozen particles of CO2) in the pumproom. 

Before CO2 gas or foam is released into the pump room, it is essential to ensure that the space is completely battened down and all ventilation stopped. 

Pumproom Fires

The incidence of pumproom fires is relatively small and usually originates from an overheated pump bearing where rotary pumps are fitted. Pump glands and bearings should be checked at least twice each watch. In ships where a fixed smoothing system to the cargo pumproom is fitted, the smothering gas must be released without delay. Due to the possible presence of flammable vapours collecting in the pumproom bilges there is always a risk that an explosion shall occur before a fire if a source of ignition is present. 

Very violent explosions do not occur normally in pumprooms due mainly to the large space available for the gas to expand in relation to the relatively small surface area of the bottom of the pumproom and the amount of gas available to explode. If there is no fixed fire extinguishing system to the pumproom, at least two preferably three foam making branch pipes must be brought into operation from outside the pumproom projecting foam through the pumproom door (s) against the pumproom bulkheads. 

Note: Though there is minimum fire danger, thepump rooms are notorious for the gas that may leak into it. Entry in the pumproom must therefore not be taken as a routine affair. Prescribed precautions must be followed even if the entry is to be made as an emergency. All seafarers must be informed •of these precautions and the chief officer must ensure that they are followed. 

Fires involving chemical products 

There are a number of factors that must be considered when dealing with fires involving chemical products. 

⦿ A number of products are soluble in water and depending upon the concentration, the resulting solutions may still be flammable. 

⦿ Chemicals soluble in water shall destroy normal protein foam and either alcohol or all-purpose foam must be used for fires or spillage involving these products. 

⦿ Some products are insoluble in, and heavier than water. These chemicals can be smothered by a gentle application of water spray. The halocarbons fall into this category. 

⦿ Some products react violently with water producing heat. (Alkyl alcohol, sulphuric acid) 

⦿ Some products produce toxic vapours when heated, for example: 

  1. Carbon disulphide produces sulphur dioxide. 
  2. Acrylonitrile produces cyanide gas. 
  3. Ethylene dichloride produces phosgene when in contact with hot surfaces. 


In addition there is a possibility of toxic vapours, normally to be expected being given off when some chemicals burn.

⦿ Some chemicals may polymerise when heated. During this phenomenon, molecules in a compound join together to form a larger unit called a polymer. The compound may change from a liquid to a solid and a great deal of heat may be evolved when this occurs. 

⦿ A very few products may react by themselves. Ethylene oxide produces its own oxygen, and local hot spots in a tank may cause it to burn. 

⦿ Some chemicals have a comparatively low auto-ignition temperature, which produces a greater chance of re-ignition. For example gasoline has an A.I.T of 260° C while carbon disulphide has an A.I.T of 100° C. 

The data sheets supplied by the company for each product draw attention to any unusual properties and must be studied by all officers and crew members involved in cargo operations. 

Abandoning ship in the presence of toxic vapours

In port: – 

Following a large release of toxic vapour on deck, all personnel must gather in the accommodation. pre-determined muster points should be identified and personnel instructed to proceed there with their short duration escape breathing apparatus. These sets have duration of approximately 15-20 minutes and should NOT  be used until required. 

The emergency parties wearing full breathing apparatus and protective clothing shall be responsible for – 

⦿ Closing down the accommodation from outside. 

⦿ Organising a means of escape for personnel. 

The escape routes ashore shall depend upon wind conditions and the master must decide upon the safest way. 

Once organised, the emergency parties should guide the personnel inside the accommodation to safety (using their escape breathing apparatus). The master shall decide if it is necessary for personnel on board to be evacuated to safety or whether atmospheric conditions shall remove the toxic vapour within a reasonable period of time. 

It is important for the local shore authority to be informed immediately after release of toxic vapour occurs on deck. 

At sea: – 

A large release of toxic vapour may occur at sea following a collision or grounding. In general the procedure shall be similar to the “in port” situation. If however the prevailing wind conditions cause the toxic vapour to surround the accommodation:-

⦿ The emergency parties shall close down the accommodation from outside using breathing apparatus. 

⦿ The master shall decide if it is necessary for “non-essential”personnel to leave the ship. 

⦿ The emergency parties shall, in this case, prepare the windward lifeboats for embarkation. 

⦿ All “non-essential” personnel shall leave the ship in these boats weaning their lifejackets and escape breathing apparatus. 

It may, however, be possible for the master to manoeuvre his ship so that the wind blows the toxic vapour away from the accommodation although in this case, the accommodation must still be closed down. 

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