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The Fumigation Process

Every now and then we get questions pertaining to the fumigation procedures for grain vessels. Certainly, these questions are founded as the costs involved for a vessel to fumigate on completion of loading are not inconsequential. There are two authorities involved in regulating fumigation procedures in Canada; Transport Canada and Health Canada. Transport Canada concerns themselves with the responsibilities of each involved party and the safe management of hazards to the vessel. Health Canada on the other hand aims at minimizing any potential risks posed by the related pesticides/chemicals used in the fumigation process. The purpose of in-transit fumigation on grain laden vessels is to protect and ensure the integrity of a particular commodity. Most often, these procedures relate to the fumigation of in transit cargoes (i.e. grain), however, there are circumstances where empty holds need to be fumigated as well.

The use of fumigants is regulated under the Cargo, Fumigation and Tackle Regulations (SOR/2007-128) which is based on the requirements set out by the International Maritime Organizations. The regulations outline the strict procedures that must be followed, where the fumigation can commence, and which parties are authorized to perform the fumigation. Fumigators are required to perform a pre-inspection of the space “in which the cargo is to be fumigated before the cargo that is to be fumigated is loaded on board and has determined that, during the fumigation, no fumigant is likely to leak from the space containing the cargo and into an adjoining space or out of the vessel” and has provided the name of the fumigant to be used, any known hazards, and the precautions for the crew to follow.

Once loading has completed and the holds that require fumigation have been identified, the fumigation team will board the vessel prior to leaving the berth. The vessel will then depart the berth with a shifting pilot and proceed to a local anchorage as assigned by the Harbour Master. Upon arrival at anchorage and disembarkation of the shifting pilot, a safety meeting will take place with the ship’s officers and fumigators. Fumigation cannot commence until “the loading of cargo onto the vessel is completed and all persons, other than the persons who are engaged in the fumigation or who will sail with the vessel, have disembarked.”

Fumigation in the West Coast of Canada almost always occurs at anchorage due to the requirement to have a gas-free certificate issued by the fumigator-in-charge. That is not to say that fumigation cannot occur alongside a berth it is just very impractical to do so. If a vessel were to remain at the berth for fumigation, the terminal would then effectively lose shipping time as no longshoremen would be permitted near the vessel for 24 hours until a gas free certificate can be issued. The fumigator-in-charge will remain on board for these 24 hours preceding the commencement of fumigation to “ascertain whether there is any leakage of the fumigant has elapsed.” Once it can be determined no leakage has occurred, the gas free certificate will be issued and the departure pilot will board.