Coast Guard urges mariners to check fuel oil quick-closing valves

The following is a safety alert issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:

The U.S. Coast Guard strongly recommends that owners and/or operators,
vessel engineers, marine inspection personnel and others involved with the
technical examination of machinery space equipment fully understand the
critical nature and importance of fuel oil quick-closing valves (FOQCVs) and
associated systems. FOQCV systems must be well maintained and tested in the
same way they would be used in an emergency (e.g. close all valves on each
system at the same time). Crewmember knowledge, testing, maintenance and
repair, system operation and limitations, documentation, and spare parts are
essential elements to review during an effective evaluation of an FOQCV

During a fire onboard the USNS SHUGHART on March 5, 2004, more than half of
the FOQCVs failed to close properly, which prevented the ship’s service
generators from being secured. The investigators found that the valves had
not been well maintained and the testing protocol used onboard the ship did
not test the valves properly. During testing, valves were closed using a
hydraulic hand pump system; the quantity of oil within the system should be
sufficient to close all of them. However, there is no way to determine that
the system contains enough oil to close all the valves, if prior to
completing the testing some of the valves are reset!

International and domestic regulations require that positive shutoff valves
located outside the fuel tank be arranged with a means to be closed remotely
from outside the compartment. These positive shutoff valves may be valves
that are remotely closed gradually (e.g. turning a mechanical reach rod) or
power operated.

FOQCVs are positive shutoff valves and they may be the final means of
securing the fuel to a flammable liquid fire. It is absolutely critical
that the ability to close the valves be maintained at all times. The
periodic maintenance necessary to ensure proper operation of the FOQCVs must
be given the highest priority, and completed as required. Records of
completed maintenance and testing should be kept on board the vessel.

Because FOQCVs and other positive shutoff valves on fuel tanks have the
potential to prevent loss of life and/or critical equipment during a fire,
the importance of verifying their proper operation can not be overstated.
As a result of the USNS SHUGHART casualty, the U.S. Coast Guard Office of
Systems Engineering developed recommended inspection procedures for the
testing and operation of FOQCVs which follow. The U.S. Coast Guard strongly
recommends that owners and/or operators, vessel engineers, marine inspection
personnel and others ensure:

a) The valve operating system is capable of remotely closing all valves in
the event of a fire. It is imperative the system is tested as designed. It
may be designed to close valves sequentially or simultaneously. Also, there
may be manual input such as a hydraulic hand pump operation required at the
remote control station. There is no defined time limit to close the valve;
the time required will depend on the size of the valve and the system

b) There should be technical manuals on board containing diagrams and
information that describe the system components, recommended spare parts
requirements, maintenance and operation. Schematics and drawings of the
systems should also be available.

c) All machinery space workers should be able to identify the valves and
how to close them locally and remotely in an emergency. They should be able
to demonstrate substantial knowledge of the system, its importance and
operation. Ship engineers should be familiar with the technical manual and
the associated maintenance requirements for all of the system components.

During Coast Guard inspections, engineers should be able to explain to the
marine inspector the important aspects of the manual, as well as the general
maintenance requirements of the system and provide information as to when it
was last performed. Further, they should be able to explain how the valves
are reset following closure. A good test of a crew member’s general
knowledge of fire fighting would be to ask them details of the technical
items noted above with an emphasis on why these valves are important.

The domestic regulations enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard for positive
shutoff valves are contained in 46 CFR Part 56.50-60(d), Subparagraph 3.
These regulations are available through the U.S. Government Printing Office
(GPO) and may be downloaded without cost from the GPO’s internet website

This safety alert is provided for informational purposes only and does not
relieve any domestic or international safety, operational or material
requirement. Developed by the Office of Domestic Vessel Activities
(CG-5431), United States Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, DC.

By Professional Mariner Staff