A load line survey is a periodic inspection of a ship’s hull and equipment to ensure compliance with the International Convention on Load Lines. The convention aims to prevent overloading and reduce the risk of sinking or capsizing due to structural failure or water ingress.
A load line survey is usually conducted every five years by a recognized classification society or a flag state administration. The surveyor will check the condition of the ship’s structure, watertight integrity, stability, freeboard, load line marks, and safety equipment. The surveyor will also verify the ship’s certificates and documents, such as the International Load Line Certificate, the Stability Booklet, and the Loading Manual.
To prepare for a load line survey, the ship’s master and crew should follow these steps:
– Review the ship’s certificates and documents and make sure they are valid and up to date. If there are any changes or modifications to the ship’s structure or equipment that affect the load line calculation, they should be reported to the classification society or flag state administration and approved before the survey.
– Clean and paint the ship’s hull and load line marks. The load line marks should be clearly visible and in accordance with the convention. The marks consist of a horizontal line (the deck line), a circle with a horizontal line through it (the load line), and six letters indicating the different loading conditions: TF (tropical fresh water), F (fresh water), T (tropical salt water), S (summer salt water), W (winter salt water), and WNA (winter North Atlantic).
– Check the ship’s watertight integrity and ensure that all openings, such as hatches, doors, windows, scuttles, air pipes, and ventilators, are properly closed and secured. The surveyor will conduct a hose test or an air pressure test to verify the watertightness of these openings.
– Check the ship’s stability and ensure that it meets the minimum criteria for each loading condition. The surveyor will review the Stability Booklet and the Loading Manual, which contain information on the ship’s hydrostatics, stability curves, loading limits, ballast arrangements, and trim corrections. The surveyor may also conduct an inclining test or a lightweight survey to determine the ship’s displacement and center of gravity.
– Check the ship’s safety equipment and ensure that it is in good working order and readily available. The surveyor will inspect items such as lifeboats, life rafts, lifejackets, fire extinguishers, fire pumps, fire hoses, emergency generators, emergency lighting, bilge pumps, alarms, and signals.
By following these steps, the ship’s master and crew can ensure a smooth and successful load line survey. A load line survey is not only a legal requirement but also a good opportunity to assess the ship’s seaworthiness and safety.