Bulk Grain Shipping

Bulk Grain Shipping

Most grains traded in bulk on the world’s oceans are destined for human or animal consumption, and include wheat, sorghum, soy, rice and the seeds of such crops as rape, sunflower, flax and cotton.

Some grains have been further processed into pellets or meal. Annual carrying by sea amount to some 220 million tons, in bulk carriers very similar to those used in the coal and ore trades.

Most grains have a similar stowage factor to that of coal, for example, bulk wheat stows at about 45 – 50 cubic feet per tonne. If you look in the shipping press at the details of reported fixtures in the grain market, you will frequently see cargoes described as HSS (Heavy Grains, Soyabeans and Sorghums), which have a bulk stowage factor of about 50 cubic feet per tonne.

Some grains and seeds carried in bulk can be regarded as dangerous cargo, in that they are prone to shifting at sea. To avoid this problem, some ships have Self Trimming facilities or special wing tanks which will Bleed cargo into the main hold to ensure that there is no space left in the hold to allow the cargo to shift.

Alternatively, the free surface of bulk grain cargoes may have to be over-stowed with bagged grain to stabilize it.

Grain loading operation is usually by grain elevators from shore silos. As with all cargo handling, time is money, and sophisticated grain loading equipment is capable of loading ships at a rate of 25,000 tonnes per day or more.

Grain discharging facilities may vary considerably, the fastest and most efficient being the pneumatic suction systems in use at most of the world‘s major grain importing ports, though other methods include mechanical bucket or screw elevators and in some cases, simply grabbing out with shore cranes.

Production of grain for export is concentrated naturally enough in the fertile agricultural areas of the world, such as the Canadian and North American Grain Belt, Argentina Uruguay and Brazil in South America, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and its neighbors in the Far East.

Grains and seeds are purchased by the highly populated industrial areas of the world, but are also shipped to many third world countries as seed for planting, human or animal consumption or in the worst cases for famine relief.

Like all agricultural products, the volume of grain available for trading worldwide depends upon the quality of the harvest in different parts of the world. This will affect volumes, prices, availability and ultimately trading patterns to some extent.

In addition to the coal, ores and grains mentioned above, there is a further 890 million tons of dry bulk cargo moved by sea every year, which does not belong to any of these categories. This includes such commodities as steel, minerals, fertilizers, building materials, timber, manufactured goods and so on. Some of these products will require specialized ships, such as refrigerated (reefer) carriers for fruit, vegetables, fruit juices and meat products. These ships will have insulated holds equipped with refrigeration equipment to keep their high-value cargoes at exactly the right temperature range. They are also likely to be designed for a relatively high speed, so that the produce can be delivered quickly and in good condition. Other sectors within this heading needing specialized ships would include the motor vehicle and livestock trades.

Bulk Grain Ocean Transportation

Whether transported in bulk or in bags, grains are liable to heat and/or sweat, especially if damp, when they may germinate or rot, therefore requiring careful pre-loading inspection, carriage and ventilation. Because of these risks, grains should not be loaded or discharged if unprotected in inclement weather.

Furthermore, grains in bulk have angles of repose of less than the critical 35 degrees  and consequently are prone to surface movement at sea. Seeds are specially vulnerable. Seaborne transportation of grain is thus subject to strict scrutiny.

Various regulations for the safe carriage of grain and its derivatives at sea resulted from the Safety of Life at Sea International Conferences of 1960 and 1974, known as SOLAS 1960, and 1974 which laid down detailed rules for its transportation in a variety of ship types.

Most of the grain exporting countries apply stringent regulations based on the findings of those Conferences. Owing to their construction, particular ships, such as self-trimming bulk carriers, may be exempted from some of the provisions, and be issued with Grain Loading Plans incorporated into their Stability Booklets, governing the way they can carry certain grains, both as to quantity, position and stowage.


Bulk Grain Shipping

Bulk grain shipping refers to the transportation of large quantities of grain, such as wheat, corn, rice, barley, and soybeans, in bulk carriers without any packaging. Grain is a significant commodity in global trade, and efficient transportation is essential to ensure that it reaches its destination in good condition. Here are some key aspects to consider when shipping bulk grain:

  1. Bulk Grain Loading and Unloading: Specialized equipment, such as grain elevators or conveyors, is used to load and unload bulk grain efficiently and minimize damage to the cargo. Proper handling techniques are crucial to maintain grain quality and ensure worker safety.
  2. Bulk Grain Ship Type: Bulk grain is typically transported using bulk carriers, specifically designed to carry dry, unpackaged cargo. These ships have large cargo holds and are equipped with specialized hatches and ventilation systems to facilitate the loading, unloading, and storage of grain.
  3. Bulk Grain Storage and Stowage: Proper storage and stowage of bulk grain are essential to maintain its quality during transportation. Grain should be stored in clean, dry, and well-ventilated cargo holds to prevent spoilage and contamination. Proper stowage and trimming of the grain help ensure the stability of the ship and minimize the risk of cargo shifting during transit.
  4. Bulk Grain Moisture Control: Grain is susceptible to damage from moisture, which can cause mold, spoilage, and other quality issues. Proper moisture control measures, such as maintaining appropriate moisture content levels and ensuring adequate ventilation in the cargo holds, are crucial to protect the grain during transportation.
  5. Bulk Grain Pest Control: Pests, such as insects and rodents, can infest and damage grain cargoes. Effective pest control measures, including fumigation and the use of pest-resistant storage facilities, are essential to protect the grain from infestation and maintain its quality.
  6. Bulk Grain Shipping Regulations: Depending on the origin and destination of the bulk grain shipment, there may be specific shipping regulations and requirements to follow. These can include customs declarations, import/export permits, and adherence to sanitary and phytosanitary standards to prevent the spread of pests or diseases.
  7. Bulk Grain Insurance: Due to the value and potential risks associated with bulk grain shipments, adequate insurance coverage is essential to protect against loss, damage, or theft during transit. Ensure that the shipping company or carrier provides the necessary coverage or consider purchasing additional insurance if needed.
  8. Bulk Grain Tracking and Documentation: Accurate record-keeping and shipment tracking are important for the efficient shipping of bulk grain. Proper documentation ensures that all parties involved in the shipping process are aware of the shipment’s contents, value, and destination. Tracking systems allow customers and businesses to monitor the progress of their shipments and anticipate delivery times.

By considering these factors and working with a reliable shipping partner, you can ensure the safe and efficient transportation of bulk grain for various food processing, animal feed, and other industrial applications worldwide.

Grain Types

Grain is a term used to describe the edible seeds of various cereal plants, which are essential food sources for both humans and animals. There are several types of grains, each with unique nutritional profiles, flavors, and culinary uses. Here are some common grain types:

  1. Wheat: Wheat is one of the most widely consumed grains globally and is the primary ingredient in many types of bread, pasta, and baked goods. There are different varieties of wheat, including hard wheat (used for bread and pasta) and soft wheat (used for pastries and cakes).
  2. Rice: Rice is a staple food for more than half of the world’s population, particularly in Asia. There are numerous rice varieties, including long-grain (such as basmati and jasmine), medium-grain (such as Arborio), and short-grain (such as sushi rice). Rice can also be processed into products like rice flour and rice noodles.
  3. Corn (Maize): Corn, also known as maize, is a versatile grain used for human consumption, animal feed, and industrial applications. It can be eaten on the cob, ground into cornmeal or masa for tortillas and tamales, or processed into cornstarch, corn syrup, and other products.
  4. Barley: Barley is an ancient grain used in various dishes, including soups, stews, and salads. It is also the primary grain used in the production of beer and malt beverages. Barley can be found in whole form (hulled barley), pearled barley (with the outer husk and bran removed), or as barley flakes.
  5. Oats: Oats are a popular grain known for their health benefits, including cholesterol-lowering properties. They are commonly consumed as oatmeal (porridge) or rolled oats and can be found in various forms, such as steel-cut oats, old-fashioned oats, and quick-cooking oats. Oats are also used in granola, muesli, and baked goods.
  6. Quinoa: Quinoa is a pseudocereal, not a true grain, but is often included in the grain category due to its similar nutritional profile and culinary uses. It is gluten-free and a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa can be used as a rice substitute, in salads, or as a base for various dishes.
  7. Millet: Millet is a small, round grain that comes in various types, such as pearl, proso, and foxtail millet. It is gluten-free and can be used as a substitute for rice, couscous, or other grains. Millet can be cooked into porridge, used in salads, or ground into flour for gluten-free baking.
  8. Rye: Rye is a cereal grain often used in bread, particularly in European countries. Rye bread has a dense texture and a distinct, slightly sour flavor. Rye can also be used in the production of whiskey and vodka.
  9. Sorghum: Sorghum is a gluten-free grain widely consumed in Africa and Asia. It can be used as a substitute for other grains, popped like popcorn, or ground into flour for baking. Sorghum is also used to produce syrup and as a feed grain for livestock.
  10. Bulgur: Bulgur is a type of cracked wheat that has been partially cooked, making it quick and easy to prepare. It is commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, such as tabbouleh and pilafs.
  11. Spelt: Spelt is an ancient grain related to wheat but with a nuttier flavor and a slightly chewy texture. It contains gluten, so it’s not suitable for those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Spelt can be used in bread, pasta, and other baked goods, as well as in salads and side dishes.
  12. Farro: Farro, also known as emmer, is another ancient grain with a chewy texture and a nutty flavor. It is a type of wheat and, therefore, contains gluten. Farro can be used in salads, risottos, and pilafs, or as a side dish.
  13. Kamut: Kamut, also known as Khorasan wheat, is an ancient grain with a chewy texture and a buttery, nutty flavor. It is larger than modern wheat and contains gluten. Kamut can be used in bread, pasta, and other baked goods, as well as in salads and side dishes.
  14. Teff: Teff is a tiny, gluten-free grain native to Ethiopia. It has a mild, nutty flavor and is a good source of protein, fiber, and minerals. Teff is commonly used to make injera, a traditional Ethiopian flatbread, and can also be used in porridge, salads, and baked goods.
  15. Fonio: Fonio is a small, gluten-free grain native to West Africa. It has a mild, nutty flavor and a slightly crunchy texture. Fonio is a good source of protein, fiber, and minerals and can be used as a substitute for couscous, quinoa, or rice in various dishes.
  16. Freekeh: Freekeh is a type of wheat that is harvested while still green and then roasted, giving it a unique, smoky flavor and a chewy texture. It contains gluten and is often used in Middle Eastern dishes, such as pilafs, salads, and soups.
  17. Amaranth: Amaranth, like quinoa, is a pseudocereal rather than a true grain. It is gluten-free and a complete protein. Amaranth has a slightly nutty flavor and can be cooked into porridge, popped like popcorn, or used in salads and side dishes.
  18. Buckwheat: Buckwheat is another gluten-free pseudocereal with a distinct, earthy flavor. It is commonly used to make soba noodles, a Japanese staple, and can also be used in pancakes, porridge, and other dishes.
  19. Triticale: Triticale is a hybrid of wheat and rye, combining the best characteristics of both grains. It has a similar flavor and texture to wheat and can be used in bread, pasta, and other baked goods, as well as in salads and side dishes.
  20. Couscous: Couscous is not a grain but a type of pasta made from semolina flour, derived from durum wheat. It is commonly used in North African and Mediterranean cuisine and can be prepared quickly by adding boiling water. Couscous is often served with vegetables, meat, or fish and can be used in salads or as a side dish.

Grain Stowage Factors:

The stowage factor is an important concept in shipping, representing the space a specific cargo occupies in relation to its weight. It is usually expressed in cubic meters per metric ton (m3/MT) or cubic feet per long ton (ft3/LT). The stowage factor for grains varies depending on the type, moisture content, and packing method.

Here are the approximate stowage factors for some common grains:

  1. Wheat: The stowage factor for wheat ranges from 1.25 to 1.40 m3/MT (44 to 49 ft3/LT), depending on the variety, moisture content, and packing method.
  2. Rice: Rice has a stowage factor of approximately 1.45 to 1.60 m3/MT (51 to 56 ft3/LT), depending on the type and packing method.
  3. Corn (Maize): The stowage factor for corn typically ranges from 1.25 to 1.40 m3/MT (44 to 49 ft3/LT), depending on the moisture content and packing method.
  4. Barley: Barley has a stowage factor of approximately 1.35 to 1.50 m3/MT (48 to 53 ft3/LT), depending on the variety, moisture content, and packing method.
  5. Soybeans: The stowage factor for soybeans ranges from 1.35 to 1.50 m3/MT (48 to 53 ft3/LT), depending on the moisture content and packing method.
  6. Oats: Oats have a stowage factor of approximately 1.65 to 1.80 m3/MT (58 to 63 ft3/LT), depending on the variety, moisture content, and packing method.

Please note that these stowage factors are approximate and can vary depending on several factors, such as the specific grain variety, storage conditions, and the method used to measure the cargo space. When planning a shipment, it is essential to consult the relevant shipping documentation and confirm the specific stowage factor for the cargo being transported.


Bulk Grain Fumigation

Bulk grain fumigation is a process used to control and eliminate pests, such as insects, rodents, and mites, that may infest grain cargoes during storage or transportation. The primary goal of fumigation is to protect the quality and safety of the grain, as well as to meet international phytosanitary requirements for grain shipments. Here is an overview of the bulk grain fumigation process:

  1. Bulk Grain Fumigation Preparation: Before fumigation, the storage or transportation area (e.g., silos, warehouses, or cargo holds) should be cleaned and sealed to prevent the entry of pests and to ensure the effectiveness of the fumigants. The grain should also be checked for any signs of infestation.
  2. Selection of Fumigants for Bulk Grain: The choice of fumigants depends on the type of pests, the local regulations, and the specific requirements of the destination country. Common fumigants used for bulk grain fumigation include phosphine, methyl bromide, and sulfuryl fluoride. It is essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines for the chosen fumigant.
  3. Application of Fumigants for Bulk Grain: The fumigants can be applied in various forms, such as tablets, pellets, gas, or liquid. They are typically applied to the grain in a closed and sealed environment to allow the fumigant to penetrate the grain and eliminate pests. The application method depends on the type of fumigant and the storage or transportation conditions.
  4. Bulk Grain Fumigation Exposure Period: The grain must be exposed to the fumigant for a specific period to ensure the complete elimination of pests. The exposure time depends on the fumigant, the concentration, the target pests, and the ambient temperature.
  5. Bulk Grain Fumigation Ventilation and Aeration: After the exposure period, the fumigated area must be ventilated to remove any residual fumigant gases. This step is crucial to ensure the safety of the personnel handling the grain and to prevent any potential health risks associated with fumigant exposure.
  6. Bulk Grain Fumigation Monitoring and Documentation: The fumigation process should be carefully monitored, and the relevant information (e.g., fumigant concentration, exposure time, and aeration process) must be documented to demonstrate compliance with phytosanitary requirements and international regulations.
  7. Bulk Grain Fumigation Safety Precautions: Fumigants can be hazardous to human health and the environment. It is essential to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and adhere to local regulations to ensure the safe handling, storage, and disposal of fumigants.

By following these steps and best practices, bulk grain fumigation can effectively protect the quality and safety of grain cargoes during storage and transportation, helping to meet international phytosanitary standards and prevent the spread of pests across borders.


Terminology Used in Bulk Grain Shipping

The term “grain” encompasses various crops, such as wheat, maize (corn), oats, rye, barley, rice, pulses, seeds, and their processed forms, which may behave similarly to grain in its natural state. The loading and transportation of grain cargoes are regulated by the International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), Chapter VI, Part C, along with the International Code for the Safe Carriage of Grain in Bulk (International Grain Code, 1991).

Part A of the IGC sets out specific requirements regarding stability information, stability criteria, stowage of bulk grain, grain fittings, divisions (e.g., shifting boards), and their associated equipment. It also establishes strict regulations for the use of saucers, bundling, overstowing, strapping or lashing, or wire mesh to eliminate heeling moments in a partially filled compartment.

The successful loading, transportation, and delivery of grain necessitate continuous attention from the ship’s crew, who must have an understanding of the aforementioned regulations and the characteristics of the specific cargo being loaded. The following definitions are from The International Maritime Organization (IMO) International Grain Code:

Grain: encompasses a variety of crops including wheat, maize (corn), oats, rye, barley, rice, pulses, seeds, and processed forms. These crops behave similarly to grain in their natural state.

Grain Filled compartment, Trimmed: refers to any cargo space in which the bulk grain has been loaded and trimmed as required under A 10.2, resulting in the grain being at its maximum level.

Grain Filled Compartment, Untrimmed: refers to a cargo space that has been filled to the maximum extent possible in the area of the hatch opening but has not been trimmed beyond the periphery of the hatch opening, either by the provisions of A 10.3.1 for all ships or A 10.3.2 for specially suitable compartments.

Partly Grain Filled Compartment: refers to any cargo space where the bulk grain has not been loaded in accordance with the methods prescribed in A 2.2 or A 2.3.

Grain Angle of Flooding: denotes the angle of heel at which openings in the hull, superstructures, or deckhouses, which cannot be closed weathertight, become submerged. When applying this definition, small openings that cannot cause progressive flooding need not be considered as open.

Grain Stowage Factor: is the volume per unit weight of cargo, as certified by the loading facility, used for calculating the heeling moment caused by a shift of grain. No adjustment shall be made for any lost space when the cargo space is nominally filled.

Specially Suitable Compartment: refers to a cargo space that is constructed with at least two vertical or sloping, longitudinal, grain-tight divisions. These divisions are either coincident with the hatch side girders or are positioned in a way that limits the effect of any transverse shift of grain. If sloping, the divisions must have an inclination of at least 30° to the horizontal.



IMO International Grain Code

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) International Grain Code is a set of safety regulations established to ensure the safe carriage of grain cargoes by ships. Grain, due to its bulk nature, can shift during transport, leading to instability and potential capsizing of the ship. The code, therefore, aims to protect the safety of ships, crew members, and the environment.

Key aspects of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) International Grain Code include:

  1. IMO International Grain Code Application: The code applies to all ships carrying grain in bulk, regardless of their size or the volume of grain being transported. It mandates that all ships comply with the regulations outlined in the code.
  2. Bulk Grain Ship Stability: The code requires that a ship carrying grain must maintain adequate stability throughout the voyage. This is achieved by ensuring that the cargo is properly stowed and the ship’s stability is maintained within the limits set by the IMO.
  3. Bulk Grain Loading and Stowage: The code outlines specific requirements for the loading and stowage of grain, including the use of approved securing arrangements and the proper distribution of the cargo. This is to prevent cargo shifting, which could lead to the ship’s instability.
  4. Bulk Grain Documentation: Ships carrying grain must have certain documentation on board, such as a grain loading manual, which provides guidance on the proper loading and stowage of grain cargoes. Additionally, a grain stability booklet that includes stability data, loading conditions, and other relevant information must be available on board.
  5. Bulk Grain Inspections: Before loading grain, the ship must undergo an inspection to ensure it meets all the requirements of the International Grain Code. The inspection includes verifying the ship’s stability, checking the securing arrangements, and ensuring the proper documentation is in place.
  6. Ship’s Crew Training: Ship personnel involved in the loading and stowage of grain cargoes must be adequately trained and familiar with the requirements of the International Grain Code.
  1. Communication: Effective communication is essential to ensure the safe loading, stowage, and carriage of grain cargoes. The code highlights the importance of clear communication between the ship’s crew, port authorities, cargo surveyors, and other stakeholders involved in the process.
  2. Emergency Preparedness: The code emphasizes the need for ships carrying grain to be prepared for emergencies that may arise during the voyage. This includes having a contingency plan in place, along with regular drills to familiarize the crew with emergency procedures.
  3. Environmental Considerations: The International Grain Code takes into account the potential environmental impact of grain transportation. It encourages the use of environmentally friendly practices, such as reducing waste and pollution, and promotes the use of sustainable materials for cargo securing and stowage.
  4. Continuous Improvement: The IMO constantly reviews and updates the International Grain Code to ensure it remains relevant and effective in addressing the challenges faced by the shipping industry. This ongoing process of improvement helps to enhance safety standards and keep pace with technological advancements and emerging trends in the maritime sector.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) International Grain Code is a comprehensive set of regulations designed to ensure the safe and efficient transportation of grain cargoes by ships. The code encompasses various aspects of ship stability, loading and stowage procedures, documentation, inspections, and personnel training, among others. By adhering to the code, ship operators can minimize the risk of accidents, protect their crew and cargo, and contribute to a safer and more sustainable global grain trade. The IMO International Grain Code is essential in ensuring the safe transportation of grain cargoes and reducing the risk of accidents or incidents that could lead to loss of life, damage to property, or harm to the environment. By adhering to the code, ship operators can ensure the safety of their crew and cargo while complying with international maritime safety standards.


Bulk Grain Shipping Safety Procedure

Grain cargoes present a formidable challenge, both in terms of difficulty and danger. These cargoes have a peculiar characteristic known as the “angle of repose” or slip angle, which typically stands at 20° from the horizontal. Should the ship experience a roll greater than 20°, the cargo will invariably shift. This, in turn, causes the ship to list and roll even more, eventually leading to a catastrophic capsize.

Given these risks, regulatory authorities require that shipmasters demonstrate their ships’ stability even in the event of cargo shifting. This is achieved through the creation of a Grain Loading Form, which comprehensively details the ship’s stability in the worst possible conditions during passage.

Given the unpredictable nature of grain cargoes, particular attention must be paid to the stability of ships carrying them. This is mainly due to the varying types of grain, including differences in size and the tendency to develop a free-flowing state when loaded in bulk.

Each ship transporting grain is obligated to provide the terminal with comprehensive stability information, specifically tailored to the nature of the grain cargo. This entails the provision of grain heeling moments, among other relevant details. In this section, we will examine the various challenges, approaches, and safety measures involved in transporting grain cargoes. It is important to note that grain cargoes transported in bags are not considered bulk cargo.

To facilitate the safe transportation of grain cargoes, bulk carriers’ grain loading manuals typically contain Volumetric Heeling Moments (VHM). These values are based on an assumed surface grain shift of 15° (for a full compartment) and 25° (for a partially full compartment). Such measures are designed to ensure the safe transportation of grain cargoes and prevent any adverse incidents during transit.

  1. To prevent any potential shifting of cargo during transportation, the grain surfaces must be appropriately trimmed. There are two possible scenarios to consider:

a) For filled compartments that are trimmed, the cargo should be arranged in such a way that all spaces under the deck and hatch covers are filled as completely as possible.

b) For filled compartments that are untrimmed, the cargo should be trimmed within the hatchway but can be left at its natural angle of repose on the surrounding area of the hatchway. The same applies to filled compartments that are trimmed if:

  • Dispensation is granted from trimming by the authority responsible for issuing the Document of Authorisation based on the cargo’s ability to flow freely to underdeck empty areas through feeder ducts, perforated decks, etc.
  • The compartment is designated as a “Specially Suitable Compartment,” in which case exemption may be granted from trimming the compartment ends.
  1. If the cargo is only stowed in the lower compartment, the lower compartment hatch covers should be securely fastened in an approved manner.
  2. If the cargo is stowed in the upper compartment above a tween deck with non-grain-tight covers, the covers should be made grain-tight using sealing tape, tarpaulins, or separation cloths.
  3. In partly filled compartments, the surface of bulk grain should be secured by over-stowing unless heeling moments due to grain shift have been calculated and taken into account for the ship’s stability.
  4. Longitudinal divisions may be fitted to decrease heeling moments caused by grain shift in filled compartments, trimmed, filled compartments, untrimmed, and partly filled compartments, provided that each division:
  • Is made grain-tight.
  • Is constructed according to the standards specified in the Grain Code.
  • Extends from deck to deck in tween decks.
  • Extends downwards from the underside of the hatch covers.
  1. The Ship Master is responsible for ensuring that the ship:
  • Can comply with intact stability criteria at all stages of the voyage before loading.
  • Is upright before proceeding to sea.
  • Has all necessary paperwork completed and available onboard.


Bulk Grain Fumigation Requirement Before Shipping

Charterers and shippers may request the fumigation of the cargo. If fumigation is to be conducted during the voyage or before/after loading, it is essential to receive detailed and comprehensive instructions from the charterers and shippers. These instructions should reference product data sheets and outline the appropriate procedures, safety advice, application dangers, methods of handling, and requirements for personal protective and monitoring equipment. IMO Recommendations on the Safe Use of Pesticides on Ships should be consulted, and a thorough risk assessment should be carried out.

When fumigation is to be conducted in port, the charterers should engage a qualified fumigator. To prevent unauthorized entry, all spaces should be padlocked and sealed. No one should enter a space that has been fumigated until it has been adequately ventilated. It is recommended that an expert chemist confirms the safety of the space before entry. If the cargo requires ventilation after fumigation, fumigation experts should be consulted to ensure crew safety.


Bulk Grain Shipping and Bunker Tanks

Precautions regarding bunker (fuel oil) tanks must be taken seriously by both the ship’s master and officers. They should be well-versed in the location of heated fuel oil tanks and monitor the tank top temperature above them, as certain cargoes – particularly grain cargoes – may be affected by excessive heat.

Fuel oil temperatures can be monitored using the fuel oil transfer pumps, and it is essential for the master and chief engineer to manage the fuel oil onboard carefully to reduce any heat damage to cargoes loaded in holds above heated fuel oil tanks. It is recommended to only use heated fuel oil tanks when necessary. The failure of pipes onboard a ship carrying grain can result in significant damages and claims


Bulk Grain Spontaneous Combustion

Certain grades of grain cargoes may be transported in a damp condition, which can lead to spontaneous combustion. Due to a lack of ventilation, the natural heat generated in the centre of these cargoes can build up to a point where combustion occurs. As the cargo is restricted from oxygen, it will only smolder until a portion is removed, allowing additional air to cause the cargo to burst into flames.

To prevent such incidents, it is essential to monitor the temperature of cargo holds. Many ships have temperature ports, which are pipes placed next to the cargo hold access ladders, allowing thermometers to be lowered for temperature readings. The best practice is to leave the thermometers within the ports and withdraw them when a reading is required. In the absence of temperature ports, sounding pipes may be used for temperature measurements. Regardless of the method used, it is crucial to reset the thermometers before insertion and leave them in the pipes for at least 2-3 minutes. Temperatures should be measured at various height levels within the hold and not solely at the surface of the cargo, as this could differ significantly from the bottom of the cargo hold.

Modern bulk carriers may have permanent temperature sensors that provide continuous readings. It is crucial to maintain detailed records of all temperature observations and ensure readings are taken at the same time and at regular intervals. This facilitates the identification of patterns in observed behavior and any irregularities, allowing for timely intervention and prevention of incidents.

Preparing Ship Holds for Bulk Grain

Although the IGC (International Grain Code) does not address cleanliness standards, it is evident that a high level of cleanliness is required for both handling and carrying grain cargoes. Before loading, the ship will undergo an independent survey by a surveyor, who will need details of at least the previous three cargoes. The holds will be inspected for cleanliness, infestation, and any material that may cause infestation.

To pass the survey in accordance with the governing charter party and/or statutory requirements at the load port, it is essential to properly prepare the holds for the grain cargo’s reception. Failure to pass the survey will result in costly delays while the issue, be it cleanliness, damage, etc., is corrected. Crew members may not be permitted to carry out further cleaning in some ports, and the ship may have to engage shore labor at significantly higher costs.

Holds, bilges, and hatch covers must be clean, dry, free of previous cargoes, rust scale, taint, and infestation. Cargo residues must be removed from between frames, stringers, deck beams, and hatch cover beams by washing or sweeping to prevent them from falling onto the new cargo and causing contamination. Any insect infestation must be addressed by spraying with appropriate insecticides or sealing the holds and treating them with an approved fumigant. All timber or dunnage remaining in the holds must be removed, and bilge suctions must be clean, dry, and free of previous cargoes.

While a cargo surveyor typically confirms the ship’s readiness for loading, some administrations may also issue a cleanliness certificate, such as the United States Department of Agriculture. Some national administrations may also require the Master to submit stability calculations for all stages of the proposed voyage. Some administrations, such as those in Australia, Canada, and the USA, have stricter parameters for stability than those required by the IGC, which must be followed if loading in such ports. In the USA, the National Cargo Bureau has the power to approve the grain loading calculation and may inspect the holds, but will not approve the calculation until the cleanliness certificate has been issued.


Ship Hold Cleanliness Levels

In dry bulk shipping, there are five (5) grades of ship hold cleanliness. These grades are as follows:

  1. Hospital Clean or Stringent Cleanliness, which is the highest level of cleanliness required. This level of cleanliness is achieved through thorough washing, scraping, and/or chipping of the hold surfaces. It is typically required for cargoes that are sensitive to contamination, such as foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, or chemicals.
  2. Grain Clean or High Cleanliness, which is the second-highest level of cleanliness required. This level of cleanliness requires the removal of all traces of previous cargoes and cleaning with compressed air to remove any remaining dust or debris. This level of cleanliness is typically required for grain cargoes.
  3. Normal Clean, which is the standard level of cleanliness required. This level of cleanliness requires the removal of all loose debris and cargo residues, and washing or sweeping of the hold surfaces.
  4. Shovel Clean, which requires the removal of all loose debris and cargo residues, but no washing or sweeping of the hold surfaces. This level of cleanliness is typically required for cargoes that are less sensitive to contamination, such as coal or iron ore.
  5. Load On Top, which is the lowest level of cleanliness required. This level of cleanliness requires only the removal of any loose debris from the top layer of the cargo. This level of cleanliness is typically required for cargoes that will be covered by another cargo layer during loading.


The standard for Hospital Clean is exceedingly high, with the requirement that all surfaces, including the tank top, ladder rungs, and undersides of hatches, have 100% intact paint coatings. This level of cleanliness is mandatory for specific cargoes, such as kaolin/china clay, mineral sands (including zircon, barytes, rutile sand, ilmenite, and fluorspar), chrome ore, soda ash, rice in bulk, and high grades of wood pulp. Generally, only ships that exclusively trade such cargoes will be able to meet these elevated standards. It is unlikely that these requirements will be necessary in the tramp trades.

The most common level of cleanliness required is Grain Clean. For the majority of bulk and break bulk cargoes, such as all grains, soya meal and soya products, alumina, sulphur, bulk cement, bauxite, concentrates, and bulk fertilisers, a ship will be expected to be grain clean. Some ports and shippers may permit a different standard of cleanliness.

Normal Clean refers to the requirement that the holds be swept clean, with no remnants of the previous cargo, and washed down (or not, depending on the charterer’s specifications), such that the holds are suitably clean for carrying cargoes similar to or compatible with the previous shipment.

Shovel Clean denotes that all previous cargo that can be removed with a ‘Bobcat’ or a rough sweep and clean with shovels by the stevedores or crew. The master of the ship should explicitly state the expected level of cleanliness.

Load on Top signifies that the cargo is loaded on top of existing cargo residues. Usually, this requires ‘grab cleaning.’ This level of cleanliness is generally necessary when a ship is continuously trading the same commodity and grade of that commodity. This scenario typically arises when a ship is contracted to carry a single grade of coal over a prolonged period. With such a trade, there is no commercial necessity for the holds to be cleaned between successive cargoes, and each cargo is simply loaded on top of any remaining residues from the previous cargo. The master of the ship may require guidance on any cleaning requirements, including the use of bulldozers and cleaning gangs.


What is Grain Clean Ship Holds?

Grain Clean is the most common level of cleanliness required for bulk carriers. It means that the holds must be cleaned, swept, and washed down with fresh water to remove any insects, odors, residue from previous cargoes (including coal, pet coke, and clinker), loose rust scale, and paint flakes. The holds must be dried and ready to receive the intended cargo, subject to inspection by the shippers or relevant surveyors. If the ship fails inspection, it will be placed off-hire until all the holds meet the required standard, and any extra costs, expenses, and time, including stevedores’ stand-by and/or canceling charges, will be for the owners’ account. The usual instructions a master of a tramping conventional bulk carrier will receive, particularly if his ship is unfixed for next employment, is to clean the holds to a grain clean standard upon completion of discharge. Grain Clean guideline is aimed at the majority of bulk carriers engaged in the carriage of typical bulk cargoes in conventional ships, which are cleaned to a grain clean standard.


What is Loose Scale in Grain Shipping?

It is essential to distinguish loose scale from oxidation rust (i.e., light atmospheric rusting). Loose scale can be removed by striking it with a fist or applying light pressure with a knife blade or scraper under the edge of the scale. On the other hand, oxidation rust typically forms on bare metal surfaces but does not flake off when struck or when light pressure is applied with a knife. A certain amount of hard-adhering scale is generally acceptable in a grain clean hold, but it should not fall during the voyage or normal cargo operations. Different countries have varying standards for the acceptable amount of loose scale or paint. While some countries do not permit any such material, the United States Department of Agriculture allows a single area of loose paint or scale of 2.32 sq m, or several patches that do not exceed 9.26 sq m in total, before a hold is considered unfit. However, the hold should ideally be free of loose scale since each surveyor’s interpretation of the required standard may vary.

The National Cargo Bureau (NCB) provides the industry-accepted definition of grain clean: “Compartments are to be completely clean, dry, odour-free, and gas-free. All loose scale is to be removed.” The definition is clear:

  • All past cargo residues and lashing materials must be removed from the hold.
  • Any loose paint or rust scale must be removed.
  • If the hold requires washing, it must be dried afterward.
  • The hold must be well-ventilated to ensure it is odour-free and gas-free.



What is IGC (International Grain Code)? and Why IGC (International Grain Code) is used in bulk carriers ?

The International Grain Code (IGC) is a set of safety regulations established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to prevent the potential hazards associated with the transport of grain by ships. The code aims to ensure the stability and structural integrity of ships carrying grain cargoes, as well as the safety of the crew onboard.

The International Grain Code (IGC) addresses several aspects of grain transportation, such as:

  1. Bulk Grain Loading and Stowage: The code provides guidance on the proper loading, stowage, and securing of grain cargoes to prevent shifting during the voyage, which could lead to the ship’s instability.
  2. Ship Stability: The International Grain Code (IGC) sets out specific stability requirements for ships carrying grain cargoes, including the calculation of stability indices and limiting criteria to ensure that the ship remains stable throughout its journey.
  3. Ships Structural Strength: The code also establishes guidelines for assessing the structural strength of ships when loaded with grain to prevent overloading and ensure the ship’s integrity.
  4. Bulk Grain Documentation and Reporting: The  International Grain Code (IGC) mandates that ships carrying grain cargoes must have specific documents, such as a grain loading manual and a grain stability booklet, which outline the ship’s grain carrying capacity, stability criteria, and loading procedures. Ships must also provide reports to relevant authorities to ensure compliance with the code.
  5. Ship Inspection and Certification: Ships that transport grain cargoes must undergo inspections and receive a Document of Authorization for the Carriage of Grain, which certifies that the ship complies with the International Grain Code’s (IGC’s) safety requirements.

By implementing these safety measures, the International Grain Code helps to minimize the risks associated with the transportation of grain cargoes by sea and promotes safe and efficient maritime trade.

The International Grain Code not only aims to maintain the safety of ships and their crew but also contributes to the global economy and food security. As grain is a crucial commodity in international trade, its safe transportation is vital to ensure the smooth flow of goods between countries.

In addition to the main provisions of the IGC, the code also emphasizes crew training and preparedness. Crew members should be familiar with the guidelines and procedures outlined in the code, as well as the specific characteristics of the grain being transported. This includes understanding the potential hazards associated with different grain types, such as spoilage, dust explosion risks, and the release of toxic gases.

To further enhance the safety of grain transportation, the International Maritime Organization encourages cooperation and communication among all stakeholders involved in the process. This includes ship owners, operators, charterers, terminal operators, port authorities, and other relevant organizations. By working together, these parties can ensure the effective implementation of the International Grain Code and contribute to the overall safety of the maritime industry.

Moreover, the IMO regularly reviews and updates the International Grain Code to keep pace with the evolving needs of the industry, advances in technology, and the latest research findings. This continuous improvement process ensures that the code remains relevant and effective in addressing the safety concerns associated with the transportation of grain cargoes by sea.

In conclusion, the International Grain Code plays a crucial role in safeguarding the transport of grain cargoes by providing comprehensive safety guidelines and requirements. By promoting stability, structural integrity, proper loading and stowage, and crew preparedness, the IGC helps to minimize the risks associated with grain transportation and contributes to the overall safety and efficiency of the maritime industry.


Top Grain Exporting Countries

While the rankings can change from year to year, the following countries are among the top grain exporters:

  1. United States: The United States is a major exporter of several types of grains, including corn, wheat, and soybeans. The country’s vast agricultural lands, advanced farming technologies, and efficient transportation infrastructure contribute to its prominent role in global grain trade.
  2. Brazil: Brazil is a leading exporter of soybeans and corn, driven by its large agricultural areas and favorable climate for growing these crops. The country has experienced significant growth in its grain production over the past few decades.
  3. Russia: Russia has become one of the top grain exporters, particularly in the wheat market. Favorable government policies and investments in agricultural infrastructure have helped the country increase its wheat production and exports.
  4. Argentina: Argentina is another significant player in the global grain trade, exporting large quantities of soybeans, corn, and wheat. The country’s fertile lands and favorable climate conditions support high grain yields.
  5. Ukraine: Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and wheat. The country has vast agricultural lands and has made significant investments in modernizing its agricultural sector, resulting in increased grain production and exports.
  6. Canada: Canada is a leading exporter of wheat, barley, and canola. The country’s vast and fertile lands, particularly in the prairies, contribute to its strong position in the global grain trade.
  7. Australia: Australia is an important grain exporter, primarily known for its wheat and barley exports. The country’s diverse climate and advanced agricultural practices support a strong grain production sector.
  8. European Union: Several European countries contribute to the global grain trade, with notable exports including wheat, barley, and corn. Major grain-exporting countries within the EU include France, Germany, and Romania.
  9. India: India is a significant exporter of rice, particularly the aromatic Basmati variety. The country also exports smaller quantities of other grains, such as wheat and corn.
  10. Thailand: Thailand is a major rice exporter, known for its fragrant Jasmine rice. The country’s warm climate and fertile lands support high rice production.

These countries play a crucial role in the global food supply, ensuring that grains are available for consumption in various regions around the world.