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What does a Loading Master do?

By C. Daw
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A loading master is a person who coordinates all activities related to the loading, transfer and discharge of marine cargo. They carry much responsibility in ensuring that cargoes are correctly and efficiently placed where they should be, according to safety standards. They also ensure that the cargo is unloaded and discharged properly and in a timely fashion. In addition, the loading master handles all paperwork and coordinates with all parties involved in the cargo shipment. They make sure that they communicate as needed with clients, especially regarding the progress of the marine operations.

In order to carry out this function, a loading master must have expert knowledge about vessel operations, as well as the associated shore operations. A loading master's job also requires a thorough understanding of laws and regulations related to safety, maritime security, and environmental protection. They can be responsible for overseeing the movement of petroleum products, which is a delicate operation that requires the utmost competence and skill. When involved in this kind of operation, they are called a loading master person-in-charge or PIC.

The PIC does not only supervise the loading or unloading of products to and from the ground when a maritime vessel is berthed at the dock. They also take charge of transfers between barges and tanker ships. In all these tasks, they see to the safety and security of both the cargo and all persons involved in its transfer or handling. They also take on the heavy responsibility of ensuring that the marine transfer operations do not result in any environmental damage or pollution. Water pollution can easily result from spills or a breach in security when unauthorized people gain access. Thus, ensuring that these do not happen is one of the most important of the loading master’s duties.

Other loading master duties involve timely and clear communication with the person-in-charge of the vessel, and safe ground operations during the unloading of cargo. The PIC sees to it that vessel and dock headers are lined up properly; the gangway is secure, the dock crane is positioned and operating correctly, and the transfer hose, loading arm and similar mechanisms are all in their proper placement and functioning capacity. In addition, the PIC also ensures that there are hourly logs and regular monitoring of all cargo transfer operations.

The loading master should be a good communicator. During a loading operation, they are in continuous communication via two-way radio with the person-in-charge in the vessel, who may be a Tankerman-PIC or a deck officer. At any time that there is a problem in the transfer operation, such as a leak in the transfer hose, they can stop the operation immediately and do remedial action. But prior to the actual loading operations, they also confer with stakeholders such as the vessel PIC and the marine surveyor or inspector. They plan ahead and agree on details such as rate flows during the transfer, transfer procedures, and projected completion times. A loading master's job is challenging; with it comes great responsibility. Only a person with the requisite skills and knowledge can perform it as it should be done.

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