With the anticipated rise in the use of nitrogen in the maritime industry both
on board and ashore, there is an increasing risk of further nitrogen-related
incidents unless precautions are taken and operations managed correctly. The
information paper, ‘Best Practice Recommendation Regarding the use of Nitrogen’
from the Chemical Distribution Institute (CDI), considers the hazards and makes
recommendations for operations involving nitrogen.
The paper is intended for ship crews and any personnel involved with the
carriage of bulk chemicals in tankers, including surveyors, inspectors and
Although non-toxic, nitrogen is an odourless, colourless and tasteless inert gas
that has been a causal factor in many incidents, including fatalities, as any
inhalation of nitrogen can lead to unconsciousness or death. Instances have
occurred not just inside enclosed spaces, but also from being near pressurised
tanks when they are intentionally or unintentionally released.
Recommendations are provided for the use of nitrogen as an inert gas in onboard
operations, including the safety precautions involved. They cover nitrogen use
during cargo discharge, padding (blanketing when tanks are being loading or are
loaded), when using fixed or portable tank cleaning machines and during purging
and gas-freeing operations.
The paper advises risk assessment to be carried out and reccomends cooperation
with charterers or cargo owners when carrying chemical cargoes that are
incompatible with the use of nitrogen. The requirement to maintain minimum
levels of oxygen in tanks with oxygen dependent inhibitors, used with certain
self-reacting cargoes, is also advised.
As not all vessels have nitrogen generators fitted, reference and guidance is
provided for ships requiring the use of shore-based nitrogen supplies.
Nitrogen and related warning signage is shown, with explanatory text in the
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