Cleaning & Preparation of Cargo Spaces

The amount of cleaning required for a cargo space mostly depends on the previous cargo carried by the ship and the cargo to be loaded. As a general guideline, the hold should be clean, dry, free from any traces of previous cargo, and well-ventilated before receiving the new cargo. Remove the dunnage used for the previous cargo and discard any damaged dunnage. For bagged cargo, widely sized dunnages should be used to improve air circulation between the stacks of bags.


Cargo battens, also known as side battens, are portable wooden battens fitted to the inner edge of the side frames. They create an inner barrier to prevent cargoes from touching the shipside and enhance ventilation within the cargo hold, thus avoiding cargo damage due to moisture absorption from ship sweat.

Start by thoroughly sweeping the cargo hold and removing any rubbish from the previous cargo. Clean the bilges and the rose box (strum box) for better bilge suction. If the hold needs to be washed down (for bulk carriers), it is advisable to clean the bilges beforehand and test the bilge pump.

After washing with seawater, it is customary to wash the hold with fresh water. Mechanical vents fitted with cargo holds should be used for thorough ventilation of the cargo hold.

In the dry bulk trades, there are five main grades of hold cleanliness:

1. Hospital clean or “stringent” cleanliness.

2. Grain clean or high cleanliness.

3. Normal clean.

4. Shovel clean.

5. Load on top.

Make sure to follow these guidelines to ensure proper cleaning and preparation of cargo spaces.

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