New guidelines on tank entry tankers using nitrogen as an inerting medium have been released by the Internatonal Maritime Organisation. Nitrogen is used to prevent explosive atmospheres in tanks by reducing the level of oxygen as well as to ‘pad’ chemical cargoes against contamination.
A number of non-tank vessels use nitrogen for other purposes and the guidelines should also be applied in such cases.
Nitrogen not only displaces the oxygen need to live by also the carbon dioxide that triggers the breathing reflex.
Fatalities have occurred when seafarers have entered tanks which were wholly or partially inerted.
The guidelines point out that a deep breath of 100 per cent nitrogen will kill.
(Thanks to Jim Nicol of Newslink for bring this to our attention)