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Trade Press Release

MacGREGOR supports new CalMac ferries with complete ship-to-shore RoRo solutions


Pirate spares are still posing ship safety threat

Pirate spares, invariably of poor quality, will ultimately affect the reliability and performance of the system served - only genuine spares can maintain a cargo access and handling installation at the peak of its efficiency and safety potential

Recent cases reported to MacGREGOR underline the importance of ship operators remaining on guard against the continuing menace of unauthorised spares which, in extreme cases, pose a threat to seafarers lives as well as their ships.

The dangers of knowingly or unknowingly using such pirate spares should be even more apparent at a time when industry attention is focused on the sealing integrity of cargo access systems, says Hans Berg, deputy general manager of MacGREGOR Hatch Cover division. Hatch cover weathertightness, for example, is a key factor in cargo care and ship survivability. Studies have revealed that shortcomings in rubber packing have contributed to more than half of all reported cases of cargo damage.

Pressure to reduce or control costs may lead some ship operators to purchase non-original replacement seals and other spares of dubious quality. A cheaper initial price, however, may well be offset by disastrous ensuing costs in the form of cargo damage and compromised ship safety.

Fundamental issues ignored

Some operators are so blinded by low prices that they ignore other fundamental issues, such as whether parts are manufactured from the correct material and are dimensionally accurate; whether they meet classification standards; and even whether or not the parts will actually fit! Mr Berg says.

Pirate spares may look similar to but necessarily differ distinctly from their genuine equivalents as their price must be markedly lower to attract customers. The differences are reflected in material quality, the manufacturing process, overall quality control and scope of supply.

Costly hatch cover sealing failures resulting from fitting inappropriate gaskets from third-party suppliers underline the importance of always checking the brand name before ordering replacement gaskets. Cost per metre should not be the prime factor when specifying hatch cover gaskets: safety, overall economy and service lifetime that is, quality of the product for the end-user must be taken into account, Mr Berg stresses.

Laboratory testing

MacGREGOR hatch cover gaskets are based on highly developed rubber formulations to ensure a complete and effective weathertight seal over an extended service life. Climate, cargo types and even diverse customer requirements dictate different formulations whose lasting performance can only be underwritten by proven laboratory testing and manufacture to exacting specifications to secure optimum rubber quality for the duty. Air temperatures from -50° to +60°C must be addressed.

MacGREGOR rubber packings are carefully designed and manufactured to withstand hatch cover coaming movement and to secure the correct compression, based on years of experience in designing and servicing hatch covers and seals.

Inferior quality rubber will not adequately seal covers, allowing water leakage into the hold and cargo damage to occur. Low quality packings are incapable of withstanding the continuous compression and expansion required for effective and prolonged hatch cover sealing.

Helping its customers to ensure they are buying genuine MacGREGOR hatch cover gaskets, MacGREGOR introduced a unique red marking system that identifies the product as an original quality gasket.

Original MacGREGOR-branded components are also vital for its patented Omega sealing system, CAT profile sliding seal and key bearing pad elements (such as bearing pad and balancing rubber).

Another example is cross-joint and peripheral cleatings which must be designed to ensure seaworthiness and watertight integrity. Again, genuine MacGREGOR cleats are designed to withstand the severe loadings imposed because material specifications and quality controls are strictly maintained.

Critical to safe operation

Hatch cover cleats appear to be simple devices but they are critical to the safe operation of an ocean-going ship, Mr Berg says. The strength of MacGREGOR cleat material exceeds the strength of all typical high tensile steel grades so dont be tempted to specify cheaper pirate replacements that simply include a high tensile steel reference.

The function of quick-acting cleats is to secure the weathertightness of hatch covers by preventing them from lifting when a ship is at sea; it is thus a critical component in maintaining the necessary compression of the rubber hatch cover seals in order to keep water out.

MacGREGOR quick-acting cleats are made of a special high quality steel selected after extensive testing under laboratory conditions and subsequent full-scale trials at sea: they cannot simply be replaced with a component of another brand even though they may look the same.

Jeopardising the safety of the ship

MacGREGOR hatch cover installations are fully integrated units, with the strength of each constituent component taken into account in order to ensure a secure and safe closure to a hold, Mr Berg says. Replacing one component, such as a cleat, with a substandard item will jeopardise the entire hatch cover installation and in turn the safety of the ship. It is therefore important to replace damaged cleats and other components with MacGREGOR-approved products, otherwise the entire hatch cover installation may be in breach of the strict requirements of the classification societies.

Equally important is the supply of the correct glues for years of trouble-free sealing. Experience has shown that if the wrong glue is used for fitting linear packings serious problems can be expected. Due to movement between hatch covers and coamings linear packings can be twisted and can come out of the rubber channels.

MacGREGOR continues to pursue close co-operation with other original suppliers of cargo access and handling systems, classification societies and insurance companies to highlight the threat of pirate spares to the efficiency and safety of shipping.

[For pictures please contact Steve Labdon:]

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