Grab discharge. Charterers of coal, ore, phosphate in bulk, wheat, bulk sugar, grains etc. which can be discharged by grabs, often stipulate that no cargo must be loaded in “deep tanks”.
Deep tanks are generally found in older style “general cargo ships” which had cargo compartments divided into separate holds (even modern dry cargo ships’ cargo spaces are divided into “holds”) and when the ship had to carry some liquid cargo (for example, vegetable oil) as pan of its general cargo, it required steel tanks within the cargo spaces. Such tanks were part of the structure of the ship and could be used even for dry cargo if there was no liquid cargo. Today, liquid cargoes are carried in liquid cargo bulk carriers or multipurpose ships. However, general cargo ships with deep tanks may still be found in many pans of the world. These tanks can have small openings that are not very suitable for grabs to be used, especially if the grabs are large. However, leaving the deep tanks empty may seriously interfere with the even distribution of the cargo throughout the ship. Instead of excluding the deep tanks altogether, it is often agreed as an alternative that all extra time and extra expenses resulting from discharge of such bulk cargo from the deep tanks will be charged against shipowners. Apart from the greater risk of damage to the deep tanks by using grabs, the question of fixing. the extra time and discharging expenses is often a source of dispute.
An example of a “grab discharge clause” can be found in the MULTIFORM charterparty:
“The vessel is to be suitable for grab discharge. No cargo shall be loaded in any cargo compartments not readily accessible for grab discharge. However, should any cargo be loaded in any inaccessible spaces, all extra expenses so incurred shall be for Owners’ account and any time lost to the vessel shall not count as laytime or time on demurrage. “
In a case, which came before arbitrators in London in 1987, the ship was described by the shipowner to be suitable for grab discharge in tween decks and lower holds. Roughly two thirds of the cargo of pigiron was stowed in the lower holds and the remainder in the tween deck spaces, for stability. The ship was suitable, but for discharge by grabs which, together with the cargo the grab lifted, would not exceed a mass greater than that which the master considered would be safe for the ship’s structural safety. However, in the discharging port very large grabs were being used but these could not be used in the tween decks of the ship. Slower methods of discharge had to be used. There was a delay and the charterers claimed this was because of a misdescription of the ship’s suitability for grab discharge by the owner. However, the judge decided that the knowledge of the port and of the cargo handling equipment used there was the charterer’s responsibility and if unreasonably large grabs were used any delay was not a breach of the charter by the shipowner.