Open Hatches

What are hatches on a ship?

Hatches on a ship are pathways leading to the cargo hold or lower part of the ship. They are covered with trapdoors to ensure nothing goes in or out when they are sealed.

Open Hatch Bulk Carriers

Bulk carriers, as the name suggests, are used for the transport of a large amount of usually non-liquid goods. These goods may be coal, grain, ores, etc. Open Hatch bulk carriers, OHBC, are a special type of bulk carriers open at the top usually used for the transportation of bulk goods and containers. The open structure helps in the easy loading and unloading of specific commodities.

Open Hatch Bulk Carriers have open hatches at the top. These hatches are responsible for the covering of the cargo hold or lower part of the ship. Often hatch openings use trapdoors to waterproof the cargo hold. These trap doors are often covered with a tarp or a latching system. A small cargo hatch usually at the end of the boat that leads to the storage locker is called a Lazarette.

Open Hatch Bulk Carriers offer direct access to the cargo hold through hatches so that large cargo units can be lowered inside the cargo hold without any difficulty. Sometimes these carriers are fitted with a gantry crane. In OHBCs, heavy units are easy to handle as compared to a conventional bulk carrier. The open hatches are also very useful to transport forest products such as pre-slung timber and logs.

Risks Associated with Open Hatches

Open Hatches safety precautions are necessary when workers are working on the stationary ship or when it is soaring through the ocean. Open Hatches without warnings may lead to people falling on the boat. It is often the case when workers are not aware of open hatches & fall to the lower part of the boat, causing them severe injuries up to the point of fatality.

Open hatches also prove harmful when the ship is moving in the sea. A trapdoor failure or a completely open hatch may put the ship at the risk of sinking. Often, crew members open the hatches while the ship is moving to make way for ventilation, which results in more accidents and fatalities. There is also the risk of a crew member getting stuck inside because of poor safety measures.


Confined Space Safety

Manhole Cover

Confined Space Safety

Manhole Entry Barrier

Confined Space Safety

Cover Net

Confined Space Safety

Harmonica Barrier

Safety Precautions for Open Hatches

Open weather deck hatches around which employees must work that are not protected to a height of 24 inches (.61 m) by coamings shall be guarded by taut lines or barricades at a height of 36 to 42 inches (.91 to 1.07 m) above the deck, except on the side on which cargo is being worked. Any portable stanchions or uprights used shall be supported or secured to prevent accidental dislodgement.

The steps you should take to avoid the harms associated with open hatches are,

  • Set up a barrier when hatch covers are removed
  • Ensure that the crew is aware of the open hatches & avoid any unnecessary movement on the upper deck
  • Issue a warning to the crew before removing hatch covers

Relevant FAQ’s

What is an open hatch?

Open hatches are pathways at the top of the bulk carrier which lead to the cargo hold or bottom part of the ship. The term can also be used to refer to Open Hatch Bulk Carriers, which are bulk carriers with open hatches at the top.


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