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Grain Vessel Inspections – A Recap

Long before the vessel’s arrival on the West Coast of Canada, agents alert both inspection agencies (along with customs) about the vessel’s impending arrival. The 2 agencies required to approve grain loading are Transport Canada (TC) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Inspections can take place at any Remote Island Anchorage, Local Anchorage or alongside any of the 8 grain berths. Inspections typically occur between the hours of 0800 and 2000 and 7 days a week. Exceptions can be made for vessels that have labor ordered on standby.

On the day of arrival, an agent will have sent the Master specific instructions to prepare for inspections. Instructions include all necessary documentation (i.e. Ports of Call list, AGM certificate, ISPS, hold mass information, related certificates and manuals, crew list, and security drill records), directions for the crew to assist inspectors and specific requirements for the gangway set up. The agent and inspectors will then meet the vessel on her arrival via launch (if at anchorage) or shore side (if at berth).  The Chief Officer and/or the Master will typically stay with TC as they review the vessel’s stability calculations. While this is occurring, the 2nd and/or 3rd officer will assist the CFIA on deck by ensuring equipment is available and an adequate number of crew are standing by.

A representative of TC, known as a Port Warden, will join the boarding party on the vessel’s arrival to issue a Readiness to Load Grain certificate. As outlined by the Cargo, Fumigation and Tackle Regulations of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001; this certificate ensures that the “requirements of the International Grain Code are met … as many holds as possible are filled … upsetting moments are reduced to a minimum,” and “all partly filled holds are trimmed level in the athwartship direct.” Please visit the specific regulation regarding the Port Warden’s duties here.

Meanwhile, the two inspectors from the CFIA will review a few details (no fumigation has taken place in the last 2 weeks, destination of the cargo, etc..) with the Chief Officer prior to proceeding with their hold survey. During this time, the agent will ensure the crew has opened all hatch covers including ladder openings, adequate supplies and equipment are ready to go, and personnel are in place. Here is an excerpt from www.inspection.gc.ca which summarizes the procedure –

“For each hold to be inspected, prior to the inspector entering the hold, hatch covers must be at least partially opened to allow for adequate ventilation, light and room for the inspector to carry out his or her duties. If a hold or void space has been recently treated or sprayed, the inspector should verify the hold has been ventilated and is safe to enter. If the hold has not been ventilated the inspector may cancel and reschedule the inspection. A cancellation in such a manner is still to be invoiced as it is the agent’s responsibility to make sure that the ship is ready for inspection.

Inspectors must be accompanied by a ship’s officer when inspecting holds. It is advisable to request that an officer with a working knowledge of English or French accompany the inspector and that a crew be on standby for any cleaning or scaling that may be required. Holds are cleared (indicating the phytosanitary condition of the empty hold is suitable to load grain and grain products) more frequently during re-inspection if a ship’s officer has accompanied the inspector during the initial inspection and seen the areas requiring treatment or cleaning.”

All of this needs to be done before the CFIA will commence their inspections. It is very important that the crew are attentive and ready to do some minor cleaning if the inspectors spot cargo residues during their inspection (see here for a list of trouble areas). If the inspectors feel the crew are responding in a timely fashion this could be the difference between re-inspections at a later date/time and the CFIA letting the crew clean on the go while they wait onboard.

A successful inspection means that both a Readiness to Load Grain and Ship Inspection Approval for Loading has been issued confirming the vessel has complied with the local pre-loading regulations. If Transport Canada has flagged issues, they will issue a Preliminary Inspection to Comply which outlines the deficiencies that require rectification. If the CFIA has found the hold conditions to be less then satisfactory, a Ship Inspection Not Approved for Loading is presented to the vessel which will briefly describe the areas that require attention. This certificate can be issued with a successful certificate if some holds pass while others fail.