Damage control is based on the premise that the safety and life of a ship depends on watertight integrity. This discussion describes some emergency procedures that can be used in the event the ship's hull has been punctured and watertight integrity has been lost. The procedures described are emergency measures taken by the damage control team to maintain watertight integrity of the ship in the event of accident, collision, or grounding.
Damage Control Program:
If a ship’s hull is punctured, watertight integrity is lost. If enough water is allowed to enter the hull and is uncontrolled, the ship will sink. There is no such thing as a "little leak". Any size leak is a cause for alarm. Through damage control, this "leak" may be either stopped or reduced to a point where the ship’s pumps can control any excess water.
Damage Control Team:
Along with other emergency duties (fire and liferaft), crew members are also assigned to an emergency squad or damage control team. This team may consist of the master and crew. There should be sufficient skills among the team members to perform the tasks required in an emergency.
In the event of fire, collision, grounding, or hostilities, one of the damage control team’s missions is to assist in maintaining the watertight integrity of the ship. Many vessels have been lost because no real effort was made to save them.
When plugging leaks, the ultimate aim is to stop the leak permanently. The amount of water entering a vessel through a hole varies directly with the area of the hole and with the square root of its depth. Realistically, if you can reduce the flow of water by more than 50 percent, it is a job well done. Also, the ship’s pumps should be able to handle whatever water is left. The values in the table below show how important it is to put some kind of plug into any hole right away.
Damage control also consists of either shoring up decks that are weakened or strengthening bulkheads between flooded compartments. Although all damage control work is temporary, it must be strong enough to allow the ship to make it back to port safely.