Preventing the BLEVE in the Storeroom

We’re merchant mariners.  We work in one of the most challenging industries in the world.  Supplies are sometimes short, but the work lists are forever long.  We adapt.  We improvise.  We overcome.  Rube Goldberg and that MacGyver have nothing on us.  But, let’s face it, sometimes we go too far. 

And one of the places we go too far sometimes is storage.  It doesn’t matter if you are on a tugboat or a 300 meter container ship, there just never seems to be enough room to store it all.  There are rumors of a ship where a storeroom was built out of plywood in a void space.   It was built so skillfully and with such guile that there were “welds” between the plates – all well and good until that flag state or classification society inspection.  Most of us don’t go that far, but the envelope does get pushed.

Some of the issues that arise from improvised storage are the suitability of space for what’s stored there and how it is secured.  Just because something is out of sight doesn’t mean that it can be out of mind.  When the weather kicks up and the new “storeroom” is opened only to find gear and equipment strewn about or destroyed, all of a sudden that new space doesn’t seem as great as it did at the dock.

Similarly, what we store in these spaces might create far more than a mess to be cleaned up.  Aerosol cans – lubricants, paint, air freshener, metal polish – the list goes on and on – are one of these items about which we need to be cautious.  The magic number for these cans is 120.  120 degrees Fahrenheit, that is, or 50 degrees Centigrade.  Storing aerosol cans at higher temperatures than that and you are risking a BLEVE – a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion.  It sounds bad, and it is.

Fire.  It’s one of the worst nightmares for us on ships.  Add explosions to the mix and the day just got far worse.  So, how do we avoid such scenarios – at least with aerosol cans?  Stow them in a relatively cool area – and one with mechanical ventilation.  Why?  Well, the ventilation will reduce the overall temperature even if the space isn’t air-conditioned.  In addition, if that aerosol can ruptures and doesn’t catch fire, the contents may have an asphyxiating or anesthetic effect.

So, choose wisely what gets stowed where.  If you have doubts, there may be information in your SMS (Safety Management System), from your P&I Club Loss Prevention guides or from your flag state and classification society.  Other times, it may be that inspection that shows you the error in your ways.

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