Bulk Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) Shipping

Bulk Direct Reduced Iron DRI (Sponge Iron Ore) Shipping

Sponge Iron Ore: A porous form of iron made from reducing an iron oxide at such low temperatures that melting does not occur; usually derived from the purification process of coal gas.

Spent Iron Sponge is liable to heat and to spontaneously ignite, especially if contaminated with oil or allowed to attract moisture, when it may emit toxic fumes. It also emits a strong odour, and its dust particles mixed with the right proportion of air are liable to cause a dust explosion.

It is essential that this commodity be cooled after its manufacturing process and weathered for at least eight weeks prior to shipment. Sintered Iron Ore: Partially fused finely powdered iron ore submitted to heat.

  • Bulk Direct Reduced Iron DRI (Sponge Iron Ore) Stowage Factor 16 cf³/ton

Direct Reduced Iron (DRI), also known as sponge iron, is a product used in the steel manufacturing process. It is produced by reducing iron ore in the form of lumps or pellets at temperatures below the melting point of iron. This reduction is done in a solid state using a reducing gas, typically a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide derived from natural gas.

When it comes to bulk shipping of DRI, there are several considerations:

  1. Handling and Storage: DRI is highly reactive and can re-oxidize if not properly handled and stored. It requires controlled environments, often with inert gases to prevent re-oxidation and to ensure safety.
  2. Transportation Mode: DRI is typically transported in bulk carriers when shipped over long distances. The carriers are equipped with special features to handle the material safely.
  3. Safety Measures: The shipping of DRI requires strict adherence to safety protocols due to its propensity to react with water and air. This can lead to heat generation and, in some cases, fires.
  4. Packaging: In some cases, DRI is compacted into briquettes for easier handling and to reduce re-oxidation risks during transportation.
  5. Quality Preservation: It’s crucial to maintain the quality of DRI during transit. Exposure to moisture and oxygen can significantly reduce its quality.
  6. Regulations and Standards: Shipping DRI is subject to various international and national regulations. Compliance with these regulations is essential for safe and legal transportation.

The bulk shipping of DRI involves specialized handling, transportation, and storage techniques to ensure safety and preserve the quality of the product.


Exploring Various Types of Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) Products

Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) broadly encompasses a range of products with diverse properties and risks. Recent spikes in dangerous incidents involving DRI transport have raised concerns. Alarmingly, certain queries pertain to DRI variants not recognized as hazardous by charterers and shippers, like “HBI”, “hot briquette”, “fines”, “remet”, and “metallic fines”. These labels, while descriptive, are sometimes utilized to bypass charterparty restrictions on dangerous cargo.

It’s crucial to understand that ‘DRI’ in charterparties refers to a broad category of iron ore products with varying properties and hazards, including specific refined types. For regulatory purposes under the IMO Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC Code), these products fall under direct reduced iron categories (DRI BC 015 or HBI BC 016). This guide aims to clarify what might be offered for transport and the precautions necessary.

DRI typically appears as sponge-like pellets or lumps, sized between 6 and 25mm, commonly 8 to 12mm. Classified as hazardous in bulk by the IMO BC Code (BC015), it requires careful handling, especially when wet, as it can overheat and release hydrogen gas. It must be transported under inert conditions, usually with nitrogen gas, and monitored with thermocouples and gas detectors.

HBI (Hot Briquetted Iron), created from compressed DRI at over 650°C, forms briquettes roughly 90 to 130mm long. Safer than DRI pellets, it’s less prone to overheating when wet but can still produce hydrogen. Though inerting isn’t mandated, good surface ventilation is essential, and it’s classified as HBI BC 016.

CBI (Cold Briquetted Iron) comes from various ferrous by-products, including DRI fines. Produced below 650°C with binders, CBI retains some DRI properties like porosity and reactive surface, thus sharing similar risks and should be treated like DRI pellets.

DRI fines, a by-product less than 4mm in diameter, behave like DRI pellets and demand similar precautions. Their storage history is crucial, as improperly stored fines can pose additional risks.

HBI fines, often mislabeled DRI fines, vary in risk based on whether they were produced before or after the HBI process. Without clear history, they should be treated as DRI fines.

Remet fines, another term for DRI fines, and variations like “remet fines (HBI)” or “metallic HBI fines” should all be considered as DRI, BC 015.

Shippers sometimes use misleading terms like “Orinoco iron remet fines” to describe DRI fines. It’s vital for ship masters to demand full product descriptions and adhere to safety regulations outlined in SOLAS Chapters VI and VII, and the IBC Code. Any cargo labeled as “fines” with terms not in the BC Code should be treated as DRI (BC Code No. 015), with shippers responsible for proving non-DRI origins. The BC Code’s future versions will likely continue differentiating DRI types as either “A” or “B”.


IMSBC Code Regarding Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) Ocean Transportation

In late 2008, during the 85th Session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee, significant amendments were made to the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code) and SOLAS chapter VI, aiming to make the IMSBC Code mandatory from January 1, 2011. This new code supersedes the previous Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC Code).

The IMSBC Code introduces revised regulations specifically for the transport of direct reduced iron (DRI), categorizing it into three subgroups based on their hazard levels:

  • DRI (A), consisting of hot moulded briquettes, is considered the least hazardous. The reactivity of DRI is reduced in this form, and the transportation requirements largely mirror those in the former BC Code.
  • DRI (B) includes lumps, pellets, or cold moulded briquettes. This type is highly sensitive to moisture and requires transportation under inert conditions with rigorous monitoring of the atmosphere. The IMSBC Code reinforces the existing BC Code mandate for transporting DRI (B) in an atmosphere with less than five percent oxygen throughout the voyage, detailing methods like using ships equipped with nitrogen generating plants.
  • DRI (C) covers by-products like fines and small particles, previously not addressed in the BC Code. DRI (C) shares properties with DRI (B) but is considered more reactive due to its finely divided form. This new classification acknowledges the growing transportation of such by-products from DRI (A) and (B) production, aligning its transportation requirements closely with those for DRI (B).

Beyond DRI, the IMSBC Code also revises regulations for transporting coal, brown coal briquettes, and formed solid sulfur.


Carriage of Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) by Sea

Awareness of DRI Carriage Concerns Among Shipowners

Shipowners are increasingly aware of the risks associated with transporting Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) by sea, a concern amplified by the fatal incidents on the MV YTHAN (2004) and the sinking of the MV ADAMANDAS (2003) by French authorities with its cargo onboard. MV YTHAN tragedy, caused by the reaction of “HBI Fines” cargo with moisture, highlighted the need for better classification and handling guidelines.

Initially, the IMO Code for Solid Bulk Cargo categorized DRI into hot moulded briquettes (later termed DRI (A)) and other forms like pellets and lumps (re-designated as DRI (B)). The YTHAN incident’s DRI/HBI fines didn’t fit neatly into these categories, leading experts to treat it as the more reactive DRI (B).

Post-incident investigations prompted the IMO Sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes, and Containers (DSC) to propose amendments. These included the classification of DRI Fines as a separate category, DRI (C), with both DRI (B) and (C) to be transported under an inert nitrogen atmosphere, with DRI (C) having a maximum moisture content of 0.3%. These recommendations were adopted by the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in November 2008, and the Code was renamed the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargo Code (IMSBC Code).

Key changes in the IMSBC Code for DRI categories include:

  • DRI (A): Briquettes, hot-moulded with a maximum 1% moisture content, limited fines and dust, hydrogen concentration monitoring, and specific ventilation requirements.
  • DRI (B): Lumps, pellets, cold-moulded briquettes with specific size and moisture limitations, dry conveyors, pre-loading weather tightness checks, inert gas blanket carriage, temperature and gas monitoring, and stringent pre-sailing checks.
  • DRI (C): By-products, Fines with size restrictions and similar carriage requirements to DRI (B), assuming a worst-case scenario for reactivity.

These comprehensive requirements under the IMSBC Code must be strictly adhered to. Shipowners transporting DRI (B) or (C) must ensure their ships can maintain oxygen levels below 5% throughout the voyage. An attached summary provides further details on IMSBC Code compliance for DRI carriage.


All Types of DRI (Direct Reduced Iron)

• Particles measuring up to 6.35mm (¼ inch) are now classified as fines.
• Cargo areas must be kept clean, dry, and devoid of salt or any remnants from prior cargoes. Removal of wooden fixtures and flammable materials is required.
• Inspectors representing the carrier should have appropriate access for checking stockpiles and loading areas.
• Before loading begins, the shipper needs to give the Master a certificate from a qualified person, affirming the cargo’s readiness for shipment and its compliance with the Code regarding particle size, moisture, and temperature.
• A similar certification, covering the entire shipment, must be issued after loading.
• Shippers are responsible for providing detailed cargo information and emergency response procedures.
• Cargo loading or transfer is prohibited during rain, and hatches not in use should remain shut.
• Acceptance of cargo is contingent on it not exceeding 65°C, staying within moisture limits, and having a permissible amount of fines.
• Monitoring and logging of cargo temperatures are mandatory during the loading phase.
• Cargo trimming should align with the Code’s specified guidelines.
• Tanks adjacent to the cargo, except double-bottom ones, should remain vacant throughout the journey.
• Ensuring the ship’s weather tightness for the duration of the voyage is imperative.
• Cargo’s bilge wells need to be kept clean, dry, and safeguarded against cargo seepage.
• Protective measures against cargo dust should be implemented to safeguard personnel and equipment.
• “NO SMOKING” signs must be displayed during cargo handling, with no exposure to naked flames or other potential ignition sources.
• Entering cargo spaces, which might be oxygen-depleted or have flammable air, necessitates appropriate safety measures.
• The ship must be equipped with detectors capable of measuring hydrogen levels in oxygen-deficient and flammable environments.
• Regular checks of cargo temperatures and hydrogen levels in the hold atmospheres are required throughout the voyage.
• Immediate safety measures must be adopted if hydrogen levels surpass 1% or cargo temperatures rise above 65°C, with expert consultation if needed.
• Regular inspections of bilge wells for water presence are crucial.
• Documentation of temperature, hydrogen, and oxygen readings should be maintained on board for two years.
• Hydrogen levels in the holds must be assessed before opening the hatch covers.


DRI (A), Briquettes, Hot-Moulded

• The cargo’s moisture content must not exceed 1 percent.
• Briquettes should be intact and predominantly whole; the inclusion of fines is not allowed.
• Fines should constitute no more than 5 percent of the cargo’s total weight.
• Inspections and tests are required for weather deck closures and hatch covers to confirm their integrity and weather tightness.
• Surface ventilation should be carried out as needed, ensuring air does not flow directly into the cargo. If mechanical ventilation is utilized, fans must be explosion-proof and designed to prevent sparks. Protective wire mesh guards are required over both inlet and outlet ventilation openings, and care should be taken to prevent escape gases from entering living areas.
• During offloading, only a light mist of fresh water may be applied to the cargo if it is destined for open-air storage.

DRI (B), Lumps, Pellets, Cold-Moulded Briquettes

• Particle sizes in the cargo should range between 6.35mm and 25mm, with fines constituting no more than 5% of the total weight.
• The shipper’s certificate must indicate the manufacturing date for each batch of cargo.
• The post-loading certificate must verify that the moisture content did not surpass the allowed limit.
• The cargo should either be aged for a minimum of three days or treated to reduce its reactivity to a similar extent.
• The cargo must remain dry at all times; any cargo that becomes wet or is known to have been wet should not be loaded.
• Loading conveyors need to be dry before use.
• Weather tightness of hatch covers and closures must be verified through an ultrasonic test or a similar method before loading.
• Moisture content should not exceed 0.3% by weight and must be monitored during the loading process.
• Cargo that becomes wet or starts reacting after being loaded must be promptly removed.
• Minimizing briquette and lump breakage is crucial, and adding fines is not allowed.
• Transportation should only occur under an inert gas blanket.
• Before loading, arrangements should be made to introduce dry inert gas, preferably nitrogen, at the tank top level, ensuring all vents and openings are sealed.
• After loading, cargo spaces should be immediately closed and filled with enough inert gas to maintain an oxygen level below 5%.
• The ship must have the capability to accurately measure temperatures within the stow and track hydrogen and oxygen concentrations in the cargo space, minimizing inert atmosphere loss.
• Oxygen levels must be kept below 5% throughout the voyage, with provisions for topping up inert gas as needed (excluding the ship’s CO2 fire-fighting system).
• Departure is contingent upon the master and a qualified person affirming that all cargo spaces are properly sealed and inerted, cargo temperatures are stable and below 65°C, and hydrogen concentration is under 0.2% by volume.
• Cargo spaces should be kept tightly sealed with the inert condition maintained for the entire journey.
• The ship should be equipped with a device capable of measuring oxygen in flammable atmospheres.
• Oxygen levels need to be checked regularly throughout the voyage.
• Cargo handling operations must be halted during rain, and holds with cargo should be closed.

DRI (C), By Products, Fines

• Particle sizes in the cargo must be below 6.35mm, with no particles exceeding 12mm.
• Given the complex nature of the cargo’s reactivity, it’s advised to always consider the worst-case scenario for safety.
• The cargo must consistently meet the approved moisture content standards.
• Carriage instructions are largely the same as for DRI (B), including the moisture cap of 0.3%, except for a few variations:

  1. The shipper’s certificate isn’t required to specify the manufacturing date for each cargo batch.
  2. Cargo must be certified as having aged for 30 days before shipping.
  3. Any cargo that gets wet from fresh water or seawater beyond its natural moisture level, or starts reacting and its temperature surpasses 120°C, must be promptly unloaded.


Dangers of Carrying Direct Reduced Iron (DRI)

The Hazards of Transporting Hazardous Bulk Cargo like DRI

Direct Reduced Iron (DRI), used primarily in steel production via electric arc furnaces, comes in two main forms: cold moulded pellets and hot moulded briquettes. The International Maritime Organization’s Bulk Cargo (BC) Code classifies these types distinctly due to their inherent risks when transported in bulk. DRI, whether as pellets or briquettes, is susceptible to rusting in the presence of oxygen. This oxidation can generate substantial heat, especially in bulk, and is exacerbated by moisture, particularly if it contains chlorides like seawater.

One critical danger of DRI is its potential to produce hydrogen when hot iron reacts with water, creating an explosive risk. To mitigate this, some manufacturing methods include ‘passivation’ (coating briquettes with sodium silicate) or ‘ageing’ (allowing an iron oxide coating to form), both aimed at reducing oxidation during transit. These additional processes are specifically addressed in the BC Code.

Regarding carriage, the BC Code provides detailed requirements. Shippers are advised to issue specific instructions for DRI transport, which generally fall into two categories:

  1. Maintaining cargo spaces in an inert condition with less than 5% oxygen, keeping hydrogen levels below 1% by volume, or
  2. Using DRI treated with an oxidation inhibiting process, approved by the Competent Authority.

Nitrogen is the preferred inerting agent; carbon dioxide is discouraged due to its potential to produce flammable and toxic carbon monoxide. Even for short journeys, fully inerting the cargo with nitrogen is recommended. Passivation reduces oxidation from fresh water but is less effective against saltwater contamination. Hence, transporting DRI under a nitrogen blanket is often advised.

Continuous monitoring of cargo space atmospheres is crucial, with records of hydrogen and oxygen levels maintained. During loading, hot or damp cargo should be rejected. Monitoring cargo temperature is also essential; any cargo exceeding 65°C should not be loaded. Thermocouples should be tested and strategically placed for ongoing temperature monitoring.

Proper cargo trimming reduces surface area exposure and the “funnel” effect, minimizing void spaces where hot gases can rise and draw in fresh air. In case of uncertainties about DRI loading, seeking independent expert advice is recommended.


Shipowners Should Ask Before Carrying Direct Reduced Iron (DRI)

Transporting Hazardous Bulk Cargo: A Guide for Non-Regular Carriers

The shipping of hazardous cargo is a routine practice in many sectors, but for those in trades where it’s less common, there are important considerations. This guide focuses on the physical dangers of such cargoes, as legal dangers are a separate issue. Tragic incidents, including ship losses and crew fatalities due to cargoes like those undergoing liquefaction or causing fires/explosions, underline the risks. A key concern is the misdeclaration of dangerous cargo, sometimes deliberately by “rogue shippers”. It’s crucial to identify reliable shippers and avoid business with untrustworthy ones.

Key Considerations Before Transporting Dangerous Cargo:

  1. Shipper’s Reputation: Investigate new clients, especially those with no prior record of shipping hazardous materials. Be cautious of new companies that might be rogue shippers in disguise.
  2. Refusal Rights: Under time charterparties, while charterers can load lawful cargoes, shipowners can exclude certain dangerous cargoes. It’s wise to specify excluded cargoes in the charterparty, considering potential requirements like special firefighting equipment or structural modifications.
  3. Cargo Identification: Misdeclaration of hazardous goods is common. Verify the exact nature of the cargo by gathering detailed information on its physical and chemical properties. Reference codes like SOLAS, BC Code, and IMDG Code for carriage guidance, but be aware these codes may not list every dangerous cargo.
  4. Understanding Cargo Hazards: Fully grasp the risks posed by the identified cargo. This understanding should extend beyond regulatory codes, encompassing research from industry bodies, P&I Clubs, and flag states. Remember, codes like IMDG and IMSBC may not cover all hazardous scenarios.
  5. Ship and Crew Preparedness: Ensure the ship is suitably constructed or modified for dangerous cargo transport. Necessary equipment might include firefighting gear, nitrogen generators, temperature monitors, and gas detection devices. Crew training is essential, including familiarity with relevant regulations and emergency response protocols.
  6. Shipper’s Responsibilities: The shipper must provide accurate cargo information, proper packaging, and labeling for dangerous goods. Documentation should reflect the actual cargo being shipped, including safety parameters like moisture content. Be cautious with generic material safety data sheets and consider independent testing if in doubt.

The safe transport of dangerous cargo requires thorough shipper vetting, understanding the specific cargo and its risks, ensuring ship and crew readiness, and verifying accurate documentation and cargo presentation. If there are any uncertainties, seeking expert advice is recommended.

Contractual Considerations for Carrying Hazardous Cargo

When it comes to time charterparties, cargo exclusions are just one aspect to consider. It’s crucial to examine what the contract stipulates about handling dangerous cargo. Does it permit the master to reject or unload unsafe cargo at the charterer’s expense? Notably, international regulations like the Hague/Hague-Visby/Hamburg Rules address the shipment of hazardous goods. For instance, the Hague-Visby Rules allow carriers to dispose of undeclared dangerous goods without compensation, holding the shipper responsible for any resulting damage or expenses.

Legal and jurisdictional aspects under the contract are also key. They determine ease of dispute resolution or casualty handling involving dangerous cargo. Different countries have varying legal frameworks for liability in cases of dangerous cargo shipment. Under English law, for instance, charterers risk breaching an implicit obligation if they load dangerous goods without notifying the ship’s owners, especially if the risks are not commonly known. However, in the U.S., the legal burden on shipowners may be heavier.

Stowage responsibility is another important factor. An English court case highlighted that when a charterparty assigns stowage responsibility to charterers, shipowners might not be liable for damages resulting from improper stowage. Contract negotiations offer an opportunity to define what shippers/charterers must provide before loading dangerous cargo, especially in areas known for problematic shipments. This includes provisions for cargo inspection and reliable analysis.

Insurance Coverage Implications

Carrying dangerous cargo can impact a carrier’s insurance cover. Insurance contracts might include warranties against carrying hazardous materials or stipulate compliance with specific regulations. Failure to disclose a ship’s involvement in dangerous cargo trade can jeopardize insurance cover. Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Rules, for example, highlight the consequences of risk alteration non-disclosure and clauses relevant to unlawful or hazardous trades.

Geographical and Voyage Considerations

The shipment origin country’s reputation for handling dangerous cargoes is significant. Some countries are known for lax controls, leading to safety risks. P&I Club circulars offer guidance in these cases. The voyage’s nature and length, especially through challenging weather, warrant additional precautions.

Managing Specific Risks

Once the decision to carry hazardous cargo is made, focus on managing its unique risks. Pre-carriage checks to ensure cargo safety are vital. Understanding how and where the cargo was stored, especially if moisture content is a concern, is crucial. Conducting independent tests like the “can test” or more thorough sampling and analysis may be necessary. Crew awareness and emergency preparedness are paramount, emphasizing the importance of risk assessment and ready access to expert advice in emergencies.


Bulk Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) Stowage Factor

The stowage factor of Bulk Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) can vary based on several factors, including its density, form, and moisture content. However, a general estimate for the stowage factor of Bulk DRI is typically in the range of 0.33 to 0.50 m³/ton. This means that for every ton of DRI, you would need between 0.33 and 0.50 cubic meters of space for stowage.

It’s important to note that the specific stowage factor for any shipment of DRI should be verified based on the characteristics of the specific product being transported. Different forms of DRI (such as pellets, briquettes, or fines) can have different densities and thus different stowage factors. Additionally, the presence of moisture can significantly affect the weight and volume, altering the stowage factor. For accurate stowage planning, it’s crucial to consult the shipping documentation or contact the manufacturer or shipper for the specific stowage factor of the DRI in question.

  • Bulk Direct Reduced Iron DRI (Sponge Iron Ore) Stowage Factor 16 cf³/ton


Bulk Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) Handling

Handling Bulk Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) requires careful attention due to its potential reactivity, particularly when exposed to water or moisture. Here are key guidelines for safely handling Bulk DRI:

  1. Moisture Control: DRI is highly reactive with water and can generate heat and hydrogen gas when it comes into contact with moisture. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep the cargo dry at all times. This includes protection from rain, seawater, and humidity.
  2. Storage and Stowage: Store DRI in a dry environment with low humidity. When stowing, ensure that the cargo holds are dry and weather tight. The stowage area should be clean and free from residues of previous cargoes, especially those that might react with DRI.
  3. Inert Gas Blanket: For certain types of DRI (especially DRI (B) and (C)), it’s necessary to transport them under an inert gas blanket, like nitrogen, to prevent oxidation and reduce the risk of fire or explosion. This is especially important for long sea voyages.
  4. Loading and Unloading Procedures: Use equipment that minimizes the generation of dust and fines. Dropping DRI from heights or rough handling can generate fines which pose a higher risk. Ensure conveyors and other equipment are dry and clean.
  5. Monitoring and Ventilation: Regularly monitor the temperature and gas (especially hydrogen and oxygen) levels within the cargo spaces. Provide adequate ventilation to prevent the build-up of gases, but avoid directing air into the cargo, which can increase oxidation.
  6. Emergency Preparedness: Crew members should be trained in emergency procedures specific to DRI. This includes dealing with fires, gas release, and spillage.
  7. Safety Equipment: Equip the ship with appropriate fire-fighting equipment. Crew members should have access to personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, to protect against dust and any generated gases.
  8. Documentation and Compliance: Ensure all transportation and handling complies with the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code and other relevant regulations. Proper documentation should accompany the cargo, detailing its properties, handling instructions, and emergency procedures.
  9. Avoid Contamination: Prevent DRI from coming into contact with oils, greases, and other contaminants, which can increase its reactivity.
  10. Disposal of Spills and Residues: Handle spills and residues carefully. Disposal should be done in accordance with environmental regulations and safety procedures.

Each type of DRI (A, B, or C) may have specific handling requirements, so it’s important to refer to the details provided by the manufacturer or shipper and adhere to the guidelines in the IMSBC Code.


Bulk Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) Ocean Transportation

Being a highly reduced material, DRI has a tendency to re-oxidise, an exothermic reaction. Thus, without appropriate precautions being taken in its handling, transport and storage, there is a risk of self-heating and fires. The International Maritime Organisation’s International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code classifies DRI – Direct Reduced Iron (B) – as Group B (cargo with chemical hazard) and class MHB (material hazardous only in bulk) and requires that DRI be shipped under an inert atmosphere, usually nitrogen.

Transporting Bulk Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) via ocean requires strict adherence to safety protocols and regulations due to its reactive nature, especially with water and oxygen. Here are key guidelines for the safe ocean transportation of Bulk DRI:

  1. Compliance with IMSBC Code: Follow the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code, which provides detailed guidelines for the safe ocean transport of DRI. The code classifies DRI into different categories (such as DRI (A), DRI (B), and DRI (C)) each with specific handling and transport requirements.
  2. Cargo Holds Preparation: Ensure that the cargo holds are clean, dry, and free from residues of previous cargoes. Any remnants or moisture can react with DRI, leading to risks of heating and fire.
  3. Moisture Control: DRI reacts with water or moisture to generate heat and hydrogen gas, which can lead to fire or explosion. The cargo must be kept dry throughout the transportation process. This includes protection during loading and unloading operations, especially in rainy or humid conditions.
  4. Use of Inert Gas: For certain types of DRI, such as DRI (B) and DRI (C), carrying them under an inert gas blanket, typically nitrogen, is required to prevent oxidation.
  5. Monitoring and Ventilation: Regularly monitor the cargo holds for temperature and gas levels (particularly hydrogen and oxygen). While adequate ventilation is necessary, it should be done in a way that does not introduce moisture or increase the oxidation rate.
  6. Stowage and Handling: Handle DRI gently to minimize the generation of dust and fines, which are more reactive. Stowage should be done in accordance with the specific guidelines for the type of DRI being transported.
  7. Emergency Preparedness and Training: Crew members should be trained in handling emergencies specific to DRI, including fire fighting, gas release, and spillage management.
  8. Documentation: Carry all necessary documentation, including a detailed declaration of the cargo, its properties, handling instructions, and emergency procedures as per the IMSBC Code.
  9. Weather Tightness: Ensure that all access points to cargo holds are weather tight to prevent ingress of water.
  10. Avoid Contamination: Avoid contamination of DRI with oils, greases, or other substances that might react with it.
  11. Insurance and Liability: Verify that the ship’s insurance covers the specific risks associated with transporting DRI. Understand the liabilities in case of non-compliance with safety standards or in the event of an incident.
  12. Collaboration with Ports and Terminals: Coordinate closely with port and terminal operators to ensure safe loading and unloading practices are followed, considering the unique nature of DRI.
  13. Loading and Unloading Protocols: Use appropriate equipment and procedures during loading and unloading to prevent cargo damage and exposure to moisture.
  14. Regular Inspections: Conduct regular inspections of the cargo during the voyage to detect any signs of heating or gas emissions early.

By following these guidelines, risks associated with the ocean transportation of Bulk Direct Reduced Iron can be significantly mitigated. Safety should always be the top priority, given the potentially hazardous nature of DRI.

Bulk Iron Ore Shipping 

Iron ore, a key raw material for steel-making, is exported by approximately 45 countries. However, seven of these account for 75% of total global exports, with Brazil and Australia each contributing about one-third. Other significant exporters include Chile, India, South Africa, Canada, Russia, and the United States.

Iron ore is shipped in various forms:

  • ROM (Run of Mine): This is ungraded ore as it comes directly from the mine.
  • Iron Ore Fines: These are small ore particles (less than 6mm). Fines can be sintered to create larger particles or lumps by heating them below their melting point along with materials like limestone or coke breeze. They can also be formed into round pellets.
  • Lump Ore: This consists of larger ore pieces, ranging from 10mm to 40mm.
  • Concentrate Iron Ore: This is ore that has been processed to remove most waste materials.

Most iron ore is transported in capesize bulk carriers, typically bulk carriers in the region of 180,000 DWT. The largest of these ships can be about 360 meters long, with a beam of 65 meters, a draft of 24 meters, and a capacity of 400,000 tonnes deadweight.

Iron ore is a high-density cargo that poses specific challenges:

  • It has a low stowage factor (0.24­0.80 m³/tonne), requiring strong tank-tops to support its weight.
  • Trimming is usually necessary to evenly distribute weight.
  • It can make a ship ‘stiff’ due to increased GM (metacentric height) from its high density.
  • Dust is a significant issue during loading and unloading, especially with conveyor belts, grabs, chutes, and bucket belt unloaders. Enclosed conveyor systems can reduce dust hazards.
  • Moisture content varies between 0­-16%. Exposure to air or rain can increase this, potentially leading to liquefaction. Accurate moisture content testing is crucial.
  • In regions like the Indian sub-continent, iron ore fines may be exposed to the elements during the monsoon season, increasing moisture content.

For safe transportation:

  • Moisture content should be tested and monitored throughout loading.
  • Stress on the ship should be monitored, potentially using a Hull Stress Monitoring System (HSMS) and stress calculating software.
  • Alternate hold loading should be approached cautiously, adhering to SOLAS regulations.
  • Proper sampling procedures, as outlined in the IMSBC Code, should be followed.

Specific iron ore products have unique considerations:

  • Iron Concentrates: Prone to spontaneous combustion due to the dry method of production and sulphur reactions. Ventilation should be minimized and holds kept closed.
  • Sponge Iron (DRI): Produced at low temperatures to avoid oxidation, it should be weathered before shipping. It’s susceptible to oxidation and spontaneous combustion if damp.
  • Pig Iron: Higher carbon content and produced in a molten state, it’s different from sponge iron in composition and use.

For all types of iron ore:

  • Monitor cargo temperature during loading. Do not load if temperatures exceed 65°C.
  • Be cautious with blended iron-ore, especially containing DRI (C), and follow IMSBC Code guidelines.
  • Mill Scale, a by-product of steel-making, should be treated as a Group A cargo with a known TML.

These guidelines ensure the safe handling and transportation of various types of iron ore, minimizing risks to the ship and crew.


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