Coal Shipping Risks

Coal Shipping Risks


1- Cargo Shifting at Sea:

Especially when loaded wet, small coals (variously termed coal-breeze, slack, slurry or duff) are liable to shift at sea thereby endangering the safety of the ship concerned, particularly small coastal craft lacking self-trimming facilities. Therefore, it is vital that no suspect cargo is loaded until appropriate water content tests have been conducted by or on behalf of the ship’s master. IMO (International Maritime Organization) lays down suggested procedures in such cases, and cargo which is potentially liable to excess surface movement should be rejected. Even if shipped dry, extreme care must be taken with the stowage of small coal which must be well trimmed and stable before venturing to sea.

2- Spontaneous Combustion:

Coal, particularly soft, bituminous types from the USA and from Poland – are subject to heat and to spontaneously combust. This possibility will depend on the length of time in the ship (the longer coal is laden, the greater the fire risk); the ventilation provided; weather conditions and ambient temperatures; methods of handling the cargo when it is moved about and loaded; and other factors. Generally, the more coal is handled, the more it is prone to emit gas and to spontaneously combust. Although ventilation may be necessary to reduce the risk of gas explosions, such ventilation may encourage spontaneous combustion by directing air on to the hot surface of the coal. Consequently, ventilation of coal must be very carefully supervised and directed at the surface area only, shipboard ventilation systems leading to the bottom of holds being blanked off to avoid air reaching deep into the cargo. The IMO Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes recommends that temperatures of coal cargo be taken daily at three places in each hold, both near the bottom, and at the middle of the stow. The danger signal is a temperature reading of between 50 and 55 degrees C (l20/l30°F), which indicates that a potential fire hazard is developing. It is imperative that no portion of coals in storage or under transportation be allowed to exceed 80°C (180°F). Thus before loading is permitted to start, temperature of the cargo must be carefully vetted and ‘hot coal’ rejected if too dangerous to carry.

3- Gas Explosion:

Coal, especially newly-mined coal, emits an inflammable gas (methane) which, when mixed with air, is liable to explode if in contact with a naked light, such explosion being augmented by a following coal-dust explosion in certain conditions. Consequently, coal should be loaded into holds which have been well-aired and, during the first few days following loading, the cargo surface should be ventilated so as to remove any gas, which is liable to seep into nearby spaces, such as store-rooms. Extreme care should therefore be used when entering cargo-holds or those nearby enclosed areas.

4- Corrosion of Ship’s Holds:

Coals with a High Sulphur content, particularly certain types from the USA, especially when loaded wet, are liable to create a situation whereby chemical action can corrode steel hold sides and bulkheads. This situation may be worsened if the coal temperature rises and, obviously the longer the cargo remains in the ship. Pond coal- coal retrieved from fresh-water ponds – is especially liable to corrode. These problems are further compounded by the practice, commonplace in certain areas of the USA, of loading coals from a variety of sources, each with its own carriage difficulties and requirements.

What are the risks of Shipping Bulk Coal?

In today’s global landscape, dry bulk coal stands as one of the paramount commodities, surpassed only by iron ore in its ubiquitous transit. Such prominence has bequeathed upon it the moniker, “Black Gold”. Given its pivotal role in the dry bulk shipping sector, it is of the utmost importance for maritime ships to ensure the pristine condition and readiness of their cargo chambers, lest they encounter expensive setbacks and repairs. The intricacies of transporting coal necessitate this attention, as the mineral presents its own unique set of challenges.

When one delves into the complications of shipping bulk coal, three primary concerns emerge:

  1. Coal’s interaction with water culminates in the formation of caustic acids.
  2. An accumulation of shipments exacerbates coal-induced staining.
  3. With an inherent propensity to form combustible dust, coal demands meticulous handling. Furthermore, it is capable of emitting noxious methane gas.

Given the initial concern – coal’s ability to engender corrosive acids upon moisture exposure – it becomes evident that the safeguarding of bulk carrier holds is non-negotiable. Absent such precautions, the insidious creep of acid damage, manifesting as pitting and rusting, could rapidly evolve into structural deterioration. Furthermore, considering coal’s propensity to leave indelible marks that intensify with subsequent transports, periodic removal becomes indispensable.


Shipping bulk coal has multiple risks, both to the environment and the shipping process itself. Here are the primary concerns:

  1. Environmental Concerns:
    • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Burning coal releases a significant amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Even though the emissions occur at the point of combustion, the transport of coal indirectly contributes to the global carbon footprint.
    • Coal Dust: During loading, transit, and unloading, coal dust can be blown into the environment. This dust can pollute the air, affect human health, and deposit onto aquatic habitats, harming marine life.
    • Water Pollution: Accidental spills, particularly during loading and unloading, can lead to coal entering waterways. This can harm aquatic life, impact water quality, and disrupt local ecosystems.
  2. Operational Risks:
    • Combustion Risk: Coal can self-heat and, under certain conditions, ignite. The confined space of a ship’s hold can exacerbate this problem, leading to fires on board.
    • Loading and Unloading Hazards: The heavy machinery used to load and unload coal can pose risks to workers, including injuries and fatalities.
    • Ship Structural Stress: The weight of bulk coal can strain the structural integrity of the ship, especially if not loaded correctly.
  3. Economic Risks:
    • Fluctuating Market Prices: The global coal market is susceptible to price fluctuations, which can affect the profitability of shipping coal.
    • Regulations and Policy Changes: As global awareness of environmental issues grows, regulations around coal mining, shipping, and combustion are becoming stricter. This can lead to increased operational costs and potential legal liabilities.
  4. Health Risks:
    • Respiratory Issues: Coal dust is harmful when inhaled and can lead to respiratory problems for workers involved in the loading, transit, and unloading processes.
    • Toxins: Coal can contain toxins like mercury, lead, and arsenic. If released, these can pose health risks to humans and marine life.
  5. Navigation Risks:
    • Ship Grounding or Sinking: Navigating large bulk carriers is challenging. There’s a risk of grounding in shallow waters or collisions, which can lead to oil spills or the release of coal into the environment.
    • Weather Hazards: Storms and rough seas can pose risks for bulk carriers, potentially leading to loss of cargo or even shipwrecks.
  6. Reputation Risk:
    • Companies involved in the coal shipping industry may face backlash from environmentalists and the general public, given the increasing awareness of the environmental and health impacts of coal.
  1. Infrastructure Degradation:
    • Wear and Tear on Ports: Repeatedly handling and transporting coal can degrade port infrastructure. This includes wear on conveyors, chutes, and other machinery used in the loading and unloading process.
    • Rail and Road Infrastructure: In many places, coal is transported by rail or truck to ports. The weight and volume of these shipments can strain and wear out transportation infrastructure.
  2. Insurance and Liability:
    • Higher Premiums: Given the multiple risks associated with coal shipping, insurance premiums for ships carrying coal can be higher than for other cargoes.
    • Claims and Litigations: In the event of an accident, spill, or environmental damage, ship owners and operators can face significant legal claims, which can lead to financial losses and reputational damage.
  3. Operational Complexity:
    • Specialized Training: Handling and transporting coal safely requires specialized training for the crew and port staff.
    • Maintenance Needs: Ships carrying coal may require more frequent maintenance checks to ensure the safe storage and transport of the cargo.
  4. Shift Toward Renewable Energy:
  • Decreased Demand: As the global community moves toward renewable energy sources, the demand for coal is expected to decrease, leading to potential economic challenges for those involved in the coal shipping business.
  • Stranded Assets: Investments in coal infrastructure, including ships and port facilities, may become “stranded” or underutilized, leading to financial losses.
  1. Biodiversity Loss:
  • Habitat Disruption: Infrastructure development for coal shipping, such as port expansions, can disrupt local habitats and lead to biodiversity loss.
  • Noise Pollution: Ship traffic and port operations can introduce noise pollution, affecting marine life, especially cetaceans like whales and dolphins.
  1. Geopolitical Risks:
  • Trade Restrictions: Countries might introduce restrictions or bans on coal imports or exports based on geopolitical tensions or in response to environmental concerns.
  • Piracy and Theft: Like other valuable commodities, coal shipments can be targets for piracy or theft, especially in certain high-risk maritime regions.


While coal shipping has been a cornerstone of the global energy supply chain for many years, it comes with a myriad of challenges. The combination of environmental, health, economic, and operational risks, compounded by shifting global energy dynamics, makes it imperative for stakeholders to stay informed and adapt to the changing landscape. In light of these risks, many entities involved in the shipping industry are implementing rigorous standards, safety measures, and operational practices to minimize hazards. However, as the world shifts towards cleaner energy sources, the long-term viability and acceptability of coal shipping may diminish.


What are the hazards of Shipping Bulk Coal?

The intent of this discourse is to elucidate critical procedures and precautionary measures imperative for shipowners when transporting coal cargoes, offering a succinct critique on the legal stances of various stakeholders should damage or loss ensue.

Two paramount hazards requiring vigilant attention are methane emissions and spontaneous self-heating. When coal in bulk commingles with air, it releases methane, an inflammable gas. Combining as minuscule as 5% to 16% methane with air creates a combustible milieu, easily kindled. Methane, being buoyant, tends to congregate in elevated, confined compartments. Should these compartments lack integrity, methane may permeate adjacent holds, exacerbating risks to both cargo and ship.

Certain coal variants may be predisposed to self-heating, risking spontaneous combustion in holds where both combustible and noxious gases, inclusive of carbon monoxide, are prevalent. Moreover, specific coals can react with water, generating corrosive acids. Further, volatile and noxious gases such as hydrogen can be emitted. Coal is also susceptible to oxidation, leading to oxygen reduction and enhanced carbon dioxide presence.

To mitigate these risks, shipowners can implement several precautions. Before loading, shippers or their designated agents must submit written particulars about cargo characteristics and safe handling guidelines. The provided data should, at the very least, delineate the cargo’s moisture and sulphur specifications. Assurance regarding methane emission or self-heating potential must be sought.

It is incumbent upon the master to ensure receipt of this information before accepting cargo. If alerted to potential risks, the master should heed any “special precautions” furnished by the charterer.

Throughout the cargo’s tenure onboard, the following measures should be observed:

  1. Ensure cleanliness and dryness of all cargo spaces and bilges. Prior residues must be eradicated before loading.
  2. Electrical components within and adjacent to cargo holds must be impeccably maintained. These components should be either intrinsically safe in explosive environments or be positively isolated.
  3. The ship should be equipped to measure, without intruding into the cargo hold:3.1 Methane concentration.3.2 Oxygen concentration.3.3 Carbon monoxide concentration.3.4 pH value of bilge samples.
  4. Instruments should be routinely calibrated and the crew trained in their usage.

Provisions should be made for monitoring cargo temperatures between 0°C and 100°C without entering the hold. Furthermore, the ship should possess the self-contained breathing apparatus stipulated by SOLAS regulation II-2/1, to be donned solely by trained personnel.

Activities generating ignition, including smoking, should be prohibited near cargo areas, with conspicuous warnings displayed. Prior to embarking, cargo surfaces should be evenly distributed within the hold, eliminating gas pockets and inhibiting air penetration. Access points should be impeccably sealed, and atmospheric evaluations of each hold should be regular.

In the initial 24 hours post-departure, all holds should undergo surface ventilation. If methane concentrations remain minimal after this period, ventilators should be sealed. Hatch covers can be further sealed, and forced ventilation is inadvisable.

Regular checks on enclosed spaces should be conducted, ensuring proper ventilation. Systematic bilge assessments should be undertaken. Any discrepancies between cargo behavior during transit and the shipper’s declaration warrant reporting.

Given the aforementioned hazards, shipowners undertaking coal transportation might inherently bear associated risks. However, legalities, particularly those inscribed within charterparty provisions and the implied indemnities therein, may disadvantage the charterer in case of mishaps.

Should disputes arise mid-voyage, the master should prioritize ship and cargo safety. Unscheduled port visits might be necessitated for assessments and interventions. Charterers could be held accountable for consequential expenses, and in substantial cases, the invocation of General Average might be considered to secure funds from cargo stakeholders.


Self-Heating and Explosion Risks of Bulk Coal Shipping

Shipowners, Charterers, and Shipbrokers are undoubtedly cognizant of the predicaments associated with spontaneously combusting and methane-releasing coal consignments. The accompanying treatises proffer guidance on circumventing such eventualities from the outset and addressing challenges that manifest mid-journey.

Challenges with Loading Bulk Coal

It’s common knowledge among our members about the complications tied to self-heating and methane emission from coal cargoes, notably those emerging from Indonesia. Nevertheless, the intricacies in handling these cargoes remain consistent, irrespective of their provenance.

Coal: An Overview

Coal’s genesis can be traced back to decomposed vegetative substances subjected to eons of heat and immense pressure. Predominantly, it’s a carbon compound, with varying elements, and the ratio of carbon to these other constituents defines its rank. With an escalation in rank — a result of extended exposure to heat and pressure over millennia — its energy content also ascends. Peat, the coal antecedent, retains distinct plant remnants, ranking lowest. Following this is lignite or brown coal, then sub-bituminous coal, which exhibits a spectrum from dark brown to jet black. This specific coal variant is indispensable for heating, steam-electric power generation, and is a significant contributor to the chemical industry, offering light aromatic hydrocarbons. The iconic black coal, bituminous, predominantly serves as fuel for open fires, steam-electric power generation, manufacturing, and is pivotal in coke production. Anthracite stands as the pinnacle in coal hierarchy, characterized by its hard, lustrous black appearance, chiefly catering to domestic and commercial heating.

The coal veins in Indonesia are relatively nascent in geological timelines. The duration earmarked for coal’s evolution plays a pivotal role in determining its rank, a phenomenon termed ‘coalification’. Predominantly, Indonesian coal ranks as ‘brown’, specifically from lignite to sub-bituminous. However, some shipments amalgamate diverse ranks to satisfy buyer specifications. Renowned for its low dust and sulfuric attributes, Indonesian coal is preferable since burning it releases minimal sulfur dioxide. Conversely, lower rank coals exhibit high volatility, and many Indonesian variants have an excess of resin content, considered detrimental. These reserves stretch across Sumatra, Kalimantan, Java, Sulawesi, and West Papua, with the most prodigious deposits located in South Sumatra and the Kalimantan.

As coal metamorphoses, it occasionally ensnares gases, such as methane, which can be subsequently harnessed. This attribute, however, introduces significant logistical and transportation challenges. Coal, inherently combustible, can initiate self-oxidation, and if the resultant energy remains confined and not released, it triggers self-heating. Such escalation in temperatures can culminate in full combustion, resulting in widespread coal conflagrations. This spontaneous ignition can also lead to secondary perils, including the emanation of carbon monoxide and other noxious and flammable gases. Combustion invariably consumes oxygen; hence, utmost caution is imperative when managing coal consignments due to their oxygen-depleting nature. Typically, superior-ranked coal leans towards methane generation, whereas the inferior ranks are susceptible to self-heating. However, there are instances where shippers blend these two types.

Nomenclature in the Coal Trade:

Certain commercial denominations for coal, like steam or thermal coal (encompassing sub- to bituminous coal) and metallurgical or coking coal (including bituminous and anthracite), denote their application rather than their intrinsic rank, such as steel manufacturing or power station combustion.

  1. Steam Coal (Thermal Coal)
  2. Coking Coal (Metallurgical Coal)


What is Steam Coal (Thermal Coal)?

Steam Coal (also known as Thermal Coal) is primarily used for the production of electricity and heat through the combustion process. It’s the coal used in power plants to produce steam, which is then utilized to spin turbines and generate electricity.

Here’s a bit more detail:

  • Usage: Its main purpose is for electricity generation. When burned, steam coal is used to heat water in boilers, producing steam. This steam is then used to turn the blades of a turbine, which is connected to a generator, thus producing electricity.
  • Types: While the term “steam coal” can technically refer to any grade of coal, it is most commonly associated with sub-bituminous and bituminous coal, given their higher heat values compared to lignite. However, the specific type of coal used can vary based on the technology and requirements of the power plant.
  • Characteristics: Compared to metallurgical or coking coal (used in steel production), steam coal has a lower carbon content and fewer impurities. This means it’s less suited for industrial processes like steelmaking, but well-suited for power generation.
  • Market: The steam coal market is vast, as many countries rely heavily on coal-fired power plants for their electricity needs. However, the market has seen a shift in recent years due to environmental concerns and the push for cleaner energy sources. The demand for steam coal may decline in regions where there’s a shift toward renewable energy sources or where environmental regulations become more stringent.

Steam (or thermal) coal is primarily used in power generation, and it plays a crucial role in meeting global electricity demands. However, its environmental impact has led to increased scrutiny and a move towards cleaner energy sources in many parts of the world.


What is Coking Coal (Metallurgical Coal)?

Coking Coal (also known as Metallurgical Coal) is a type of coal primarily used in the production of steel. Its distinct properties allow it to be converted into coke, a material essential for the steel-making process.

Here’s a deeper dive:

  • Usage: Coking coal is crucial in the production of coke. Coke is produced by heating coking coal in the absence of air (a process known as carbonization) in coke ovens. This results in a hard, porous material that serves two main purposes in the steel-making process:
    1. As a fuel to melt iron ore.
    2. As a reducing agent to convert the iron ore (mostly iron oxide, Fe2O3 or Fe3O4) into molten iron.
  • Types: Not all coals can be used as coking coals. Coking coals have specific properties such as caking ability, which is the ability of coal to soften, re-solidify, and produce a coherent, porous mass when heated in the absence of air. This is an essential property for the production of high-quality coke.
  • Characteristics: Coking coal is typically bituminous in rank and has certain vital characteristics that distinguish it from other coal types. These include a lower ash content, lower sulfur content, and specific volatile content. These properties influence the quality of the coke produced.
  • Market: Coking coal, being essential for steel production, has a significant market globally, especially in regions with substantial steel production, like China, India, Europe, and the United States. The quality and specific characteristics of the coking coal can influence its market price.
  • Environmental Concerns: Like all coal types, mining and using coking coal has environmental implications, particularly concerning greenhouse gas emissions. The steel industry is one of the major industrial carbon emitters, and efforts are being made to transition to more sustainable methods of steel production.

Coking (or metallurgical) coal is vital for steel production, as it’s used to produce coke, an essential ingredient in the blast furnace process. Its specific properties distinguish it from other coal types, and it plays a crucial role in industrial processes globally.



What are the types of Coal?

Coal is classified based on its carbon content and energy density, as well as other properties such as moisture and sulfur content. The major types of coal are:

  1. Anthracite (Hard Coal):
    • Highest carbon content: around 86% to 98%
    • Highest energy density
    • Shiny black and glossy appearance
    • Hardest among all coal types
    • Less impurities, hence cleaner burn with less soot
    • Used primarily for residential and commercial heating
  2. Bituminous Coal:
    • Carbon content: around 45% to 86%
    • High energy density
    • Dark black and usually has a sooty appearance
    • Commonly used in electricity generation in power plants
    • Also used for making coke, a key ingredient in steelmaking
  3. Sub-bituminous Coal:
    • Carbon content: around 35% to 45%
    • Lower energy content than bituminous coal
    • Generally dark brown to black in appearance
    • Used mainly for electricity generation
  4. Lignite (Brown Coal):
    • Lowest carbon content: around 25% to 35%
    • Lowest energy density
    • Brownish-black in color
    • Higher moisture content compared to other coal types
    • Often used in electricity generation, especially in power plants located near the mining site due to its low energy density and high moisture content which makes it uneconomical to transport over long distances
  5. Peat:
    • Not technically a type of coal, but it is the precursor material from which all coals originate.
    • Contains less than 25% carbon
    • High moisture content
    • Brown, soil-like in appearance
    • When dried, it can be burned as fuel, but with lower energy output than other coal types
    • As peat is buried and subjected to heat and pressure over geological timescales, it transforms through the stages of lignite, sub-bituminous, bituminous, and finally to anthracite.

The classification can vary slightly depending on the criteria used (like regional naming conventions or slight adjustments in carbon content percentages), but the above categories are the main types recognized internationally.




International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code Specifications for Coal:

Despite the myriad trade terminologies for coal variants, the IMSBC Code enlists only one entry under Coal. It is anticipated that all coal consignments would be documented as coal in cargo declarations. International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code offers a comprehensive guideline for secure coal cargo loading, which is a crucial reference for all involved entities.

Predominantly, coal is transported in lumpy form. However, certain granules, termed ‘fines’, can be extremely minute and might possess liquefaction properties. These necessitate augmented loading regulations in the form of a Transportable Moisture Limit Certificate (TML) and a Moisture Content (MC) Certificate. The IMO has delineated protocols for shippers to supervise their moisture management practices, and the authoritative body of the Loading Port is mandated to furnish an additional certificate, elucidating their endorsement of these practices.

Another variant in the coal cargo spectrum is Coal Slurry, comprised of minuscule coal fragments, often remnants from larger chunks. Given its potential to liquefy, it demands both a TML and MC certificate before loading.

It’s imperative for all ships poised to transport coal to be equipped with apt gas monitoring apparatus throughout the journey.


What is Coal Slurry?

Coal slurry is a mixture of crushed coal and a liquid, usually water. It’s created during the coal mining and processing stages. The production and cleaning of coal often leads to fine coal particles, which are then mixed with water to create a slurry. This allows for easier transportation and processing. There are also specific processes known as “slurry beneficiation” where coal is cleaned using water and then the water is separated out, leaving cleaner coal.

Here are some important points about coal slurry:

  1. Composition: In addition to coal and water, coal slurry can contain various impurities, including rock, soil, clay, and coal cleaning chemicals. Depending on the source and processing, the quality and composition of coal slurry can vary.
  2. Transportation: Coal slurry is sometimes transported through pipelines in what’s known as a “slurry pipeline.” This method can be more cost-effective than traditional coal transportation methods such as truck or rail, especially over long distances.
  3. Environmental Concerns: The storage and disposal of coal slurry pose environmental challenges. In the past, there have been instances where impoundments or dams containing coal slurry have failed, leading to environmental disasters. The slurry can contaminate local water supplies and harm aquatic life. The chemicals used in processing coal can also pose risks if they leak into the environment.
  4. Coal Slurry Ponds: After coal is washed and cleaned, the remaining slurry is often stored in large ponds or impoundments. These ponds can cover vast areas and hold millions of gallons of waste.
  5. Alternative Uses: There has been research into using coal slurry as a fuel source, where it’s burned much like traditional coal. The idea is that utilizing the slurry in this way can reduce the need for storage and the associated environmental risks. However, this approach also comes with its own set of environmental and efficiency challenges.

While coal slurry can offer some benefits in terms of transportation and processing, it also presents environmental challenges that need careful management and oversight.



What is Transportable Moisture Limit Certificate (TML)?

The Transportable Moisture Limit (TML) is a term used in the maritime shipping industry to refer to the maximum moisture content in bulk cargo that is considered safe for transportation on ships without risking the safety of the ship or its crew.

Here’s a bit more detail:

  1. Why TML is Important: Solid bulk cargoes, such as mineral ores, can sometimes contain moisture. If these cargoes have too much moisture, they can become unstable during transport, especially when subjected to the ship’s motions. This instability can lead to cargo shift or even capsizing of the ship, which can be disastrous.
  2. Determination of TML: The TML is determined by laboratory testing of cargo samples. The test establishes the maximum moisture content at which the cargo is deemed safe for carriage. The actual moisture content of the cargo intended for shipment should always be less than this limit.
  3. Flow Moisture Point (FMP): It’s another related term you might hear. It refers to the moisture content at which a sample begins to exhibit the properties of a liquid. The TML is typically set at a certain percentage below the FMP to ensure a safety margin.
  4. TML Certificate: Once the TML is determined, a certificate is issued, which serves as a proof that the cargo’s moisture content is within safe limits. Before loading bulk cargoes that might liquefy, ship operators should always ask for this certificate to ensure the safety of the voyage.
  5. International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code): The regulations and guidelines related to the carriage of solid bulk cargoes, including the TML, are set out in the IMSBC Code, which is published by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The code provides detailed information on various bulk cargoes and the precautions to be taken during their transport.

Transportable Moisture Limit Certificate is an essential document in the maritime shipping industry to ensure that bulk cargoes with potential to liquefy are transported safely.


Transportable Moisture Limit Certificate (TML) for Bulk Coal

The Transportable Moisture Limit (TML) Certificate for bulk coal or any bulk cargo is a crucial document for the safety of maritime transport. Bulk cargo, especially minerals, can be hazardous when transported with excess moisture content. This is due to the possibility of cargo shift or even liquefaction which can compromise the stability of a ship and lead to tragic consequences.

Here’s a basic outline of what such a certificate might look like and what information it would contain:


For Bulk Coal Shipment

  1. Certificate Issuer Information
    • Issuing Organization/Agency:
    • Address:
    • Contact Details (phone, fax, email):
    • Authorized Signatory’s Name and Position:
  2. Coal Supplier/Exporter Details
    • Company Name:
    • Address:
    • Contact Details (phone, fax, email):
  3. Ship Details
    • Ship Name:
    • IMO Number:
    • Port of Loading:
    • Destination Port:
  4. Coal Details
    • Source Mine/Location:
    • Type/Grade of Coal:
    • Quantity (in metric tons):
  5. Test Results
    • Date of Sampling:
    • Location of Sampling (onboard/at port/source):
    • Testing Methodology Used (Note: It is crucial to follow internationally accepted methodologies):
    • Flow Moisture Point (FMP):
    • Transportable Moisture Limit (TML): (This should be 90% of the FMP)
    • Actual Moisture Content of the Sample:
    • Note: The actual moisture content of the shipment must be less than the TML for it to be safely transported.
  6. Declaration
    • We hereby certify that the bulk coal intended for shipment, as described above, has been tested and verified to have a moisture content below its Transportable Moisture Limit (TML). We understand the implications of false declarations and are aware of the responsibilities and liabilities attached thereto.
    • Date of Issue:
  7. Authorized Signature
    • Signature of Authorized Person:
    • Name and Designation:
    • Seal/Stamp of the Issuing Organization:

This is a basic format of a TML certificate for bulk coal. The exact requirements may vary based on national or international regulations and standards. It’s crucial that all testing and issuance of such certificates be carried out by qualified personnel and institutions to ensure the utmost accuracy and compliance with safety standards. Always refer to the relevant national and international regulations and guidelines when preparing and using such certificates.



Before Loading Bulk Coal on Ship 

Before transporting coal or analogous freight, shippers must present a declaration specifying any previous instances of the cargo’s self-heating or methane emissions. Should this not be indicated, query them once more, for these attributes are prevalent in Indonesian coals, particularly self-heating.

Vigilant surveillance is requisite for all coal shipments throughout the journey, encompassing temperature and gas assessments for each compartment. As delineated, ships purposed for coal conveyance should be equipped with the requisite gas monitoring instruments, all of which should be in optimal condition and accompanied by a current calibration certification before loading commences. Mastery over the ship’s gas meter operation is imperative before the onset of loading.

Diverse models and brands of gas meters are available, with some encompassing a built-in pump for gas sample extraction through a sampling conduit placed within the hold headspace via the gas sampling portal, transmitting it over the internal gas sensors. Conversely, some lack this feature, necessitating a manual rubber bulb pump situated between the sampling tube’s endpoint and the gas meter. Post-reading, ensuring the meter’s return to standard atmospheric gas measurements is crucial before undertaking the subsequent assessment; oxygen at 20.9%, carbon monoxide and %LEL at 0%. Furthermore, shielding the gas meter from debris and humidity is vital as these can impair the sensors; thus, a filtering system is beneficial.

Utilizing the gas sampling portals for entry into the headspaces facilitates gas concentration assessments without unveiling the hatches. This ensures precise monitoring of oxygen (O2), methane (CH4), and carbon monoxide (CO). Comprehension of the measured gases and their significance is crucial:

  • Oxygen (O2): Depleted by self-heating or combustion mechanisms. Absence of O2 halts self-heating.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO): Emerges during low-oxygen self-heating or combustion. An odorless, potent toxin, it latches onto haemoglobin overwhelmingly, disrupting oxygen transport in the bloodstream, leading to asphyxiation.
  • Methane (CH4): Emitted by certain coals, escalating levels signify active methane release, necessitating vigilant oversight. If concentrations ascend to 20% of the LEL, ventilation becomes imperative.

A noteworthy point is that most multi-gas meters on ships falter in reliability for hydrocarbons or other combustible gases in diminished oxygen environments. Their efficacy typically diminishes below 12% O2 levels, given their reliance on combustion sensors necessitating oxygen for accurate measurements.

The coal protocol in the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code articulates that the cargo’s temperature should not surpass 55°C. If shippers ascertain the coal’s propensity for self-heating, temperature surveillance pre-loading (and during the journey) becomes paramount.

Should shippers avow a lack of self-heating history, it remains judicious to meticulously oversee the cargo temperature, refraining from loading if it exceeds 55°C. A coal registering at this temperature is likely mislabeled.

Acknowledging the kinetic principle that chemical reactions double in pace with every ten-degree temperature ascent, coal approaching 55°C can potentially escalate to spontaneous ignition swiftly. If the cargo temperature remains below this threshold, adequate time exists for loading, observation, and oxygen restriction to quell self-heating reactions, preventing ignition.

The International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code offers no allowance for mean temperature values. Therefore, reliance on ‘average’ values from barges or reserves is discouraged.

In instances where coal exhibits past tendencies for self-heating or methane release, such characteristics should be documented in the cargo declaration. These attributes don’t prohibit transportation but prescribe the cargo’s management modus operandi during loading and transit.

If coal on a particular barge surpasses the 55°C mark, the onus lies with the shipper to cool it through mechanical methods or ensure its non-inclusion in the load. Regular temperature checks by the crew or appointed surveyors become essential. Notably, coal can be cooled effectively through rotation or overturning, a practice evidenced in prior experiences.

Prior to loading bulk cargo on a ship, the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code suggests pre-loading temperature evaluations. While some might question the necessity in the absence of self-heating indications from shippers, historical precedents of misinformation or inadvertent omissions exist. Onshore stockpile ignitions pose lesser challenges in management.

Therefore, prior to loading, assessing the designated cargo’s temperature is recommended. In regions like Indonesia, where coal transitions from barges, this entails monitoring barge-stored coal temperatures.

Optimally, a thermocouple probe paired with a thermometer should be employed. However, if infeasible, an Infra-Red (IR) thermal device can suffice. Yet, its limitations, including accuracy and surface-only readings, necessitate deeper assessments post-disruption by machinery. Additionally, shippers may have temperature sensors on their loading conveyors, warranting inspection if permitted.

Detailed record-keeping of temperature monitoring outcomes is crucial, especially if it impacts the loading process. Starting with surface temperature evaluations, if they already exceed the 55°C threshold outlined in the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code, it suggests active self-heating, violating carriage stipulations.

Methane-emitting coals necessitate distinct precautions due to their volatile nature. Only post-loading can methane monitoring commence, given the gas’s accumulation in the hold.

Proficient risk management stems from a deep understanding of coal’s characteristics, with the coal schedule in the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code providing comprehensive details for maritime transportation.



What is Moisture Content (MC) Certificate?

A Moisture Content (MC) Certificate is a document that confirms the moisture level of a specific product or material. It’s often used for goods where the amount of moisture present can significantly affect the product’s quality, safety, or utility. This can be crucial for materials that are susceptible to spoilage, degradation, or other issues when exposed to certain moisture levels.

For example, in the case of agricultural products like grain or wood, the moisture content can affect the product’s shelf life, vulnerability to pests, and even its weight. Too much moisture might lead to mold growth or spoilage, while too little moisture can reduce the quality or usability of the product.

Here’s how the process generally works:

  1. Sampling: A sample of the product is taken to ensure it represents the entire batch or lot.
  2. Testing: This sample is then tested using various methods to determine its moisture content. The specific method can vary based on the type of product. Common methods include oven drying, Karl Fischer titration, and others.
  3. Documentation: Once the moisture content is determined, it’s documented in a certificate. This certificate may include details about the product, the testing method used, the results of the test, and any other relevant details.
  4. Use of the Certificate: This certificate can then be provided to buyers, customs officials, or other stakeholders as proof of the product’s moisture content. It can be particularly important for international trade, where goods may need to meet specific moisture content standards to be accepted into a country.

In industries where moisture content is a critical factor, such a certificate ensures that products meet specific standards or criteria and provides transparency to buyers and other stakeholders.


Moisture Content (MC) Certificate for Bulk Coal

The Moisture Content (MC) Certificate for bulk coal is a crucial document, especially in the coal industry and its trading sectors. Coal’s moisture content can affect its weight, energy content, and transportability. Therefore, buyers, sellers, and transportation entities often require a clear and accurate assessment of the moisture level in coal shipments.

What is the Moisture Content (MC) Certificate for Bulk Coal?

  1. Definition: The MC Certificate for bulk coal is a document that certifies the amount of moisture present in a particular shipment or batch of coal. This is done to ascertain the quality and energy content of the coal, which can directly impact its price and usability.
  2. Importance:
    • Weight: Moisture content directly affects the weight of coal. A high moisture content means buyers might be paying for water weight instead of coal weight.
    • Calorific Value: The moisture content in coal can dilute its energy content. High moisture coal will have a lower calorific value per unit weight, making it less efficient as a fuel.
    • Transport and Safety: Wet coal is more susceptible to freezing in cold climates, making it difficult to handle and transport. Additionally, wet coal can spontaneously combust in certain conditions, posing safety risks.
  3. Testing and Analysis:
    • Sample Collection: To ensure representativeness, samples are collected from different parts of the shipment or storage area.
    • Laboratory Analysis: These samples are then analyzed in a laboratory to determine the moisture content. Common methods include oven drying, where the coal is weighed, dried in an oven, and then re-weighed to determine moisture content by difference.
  4. Documentation:
    • The MC Certificate will typically include details like the source of the coal, date of testing, method of testing, results of the moisture content analysis, and any relevant standard or guideline followed during the process.
    • Some certificates may also provide additional details, such as the name of the testing facility, the credentials of the person conducting the test, and other relevant batch-specific details.
  5. Use of the Certificate:
    • Trade: Sellers can provide the certificate to buyers as proof of coal quality.
    • Customs and Regulations: When transporting coal internationally, customs officials may require an MC certificate to ensure the coal meets the importing country’s regulations or standards.
    • Safety and Handling: Knowing the moisture content can help transporters and handlers take appropriate precautions, especially in environments where moisture could either freeze or contribute to spontaneous combustion.

The Moisture Content (MC) Certificate for bulk coal is an essential tool for ensuring quality, safety, and fairness in the coal industry’s trade and transportation sectors.


Bulk Coal Shipping Risks During the Voyage

Coal Consignments: Challenges En Route

Upon ensuring the coal’s adherence to the transport stipulations of the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code, one key directive states,

“Cargo may only be loaded if its temperature remains under 55°C.”

Subsequent to loading, vigilant observation and management of the cargo throughout the journey is paramount. A pre-voyage temperature below 55°C doesn’t negate potential complications arising during transit.

Given that temperature probes are situated peripherally within the cargo hold, they merely offer a cursory glimpse of the proximal cargo temperature. Hence, gauging gas levels is deemed the most accurate method for mid-voyage cargo surveillance.

Utilizing the gas sampling apertures permits evaluation of gas concentrations without exposing the hatches. Thus, levels of oxygen (O2), methane (CH4), and carbon monoxide (CO) can be meticulously gauged. Understanding which gases are under scrutiny and the reasons are vital:

  • Oxygen (O2): Diminishing O2 levels in a self-warming coal indicates the absence of self-heating. Without O2, spontaneous heating is inhibited.
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO): This odorless gas emerges from self-heating or combustion at minimal oxygen concentrations. A treacherous gas, CO latches onto haemoglobin, leading to potential asphyxiation.
  • Methane (CH4): When coal emits this gas, elevated levels warrant heightened observation. Should concentrations approach 20% of the lower explosive limit (LEL), adequate ventilation becomes imperative.

It’s noteworthy that many multi-gas meters aboard ships falter in low oxygen settings, especially below roughly 12% O2. Most meters rely on combustion sensors, necessitating oxygen to yield trustworthy readings.

Voyage Gas Monitoring:

Fluctuations in gas percentages hint at potential self-heating, combustion, or methane release. Ships bound with coal must be equipped with functioning gas monitors, calibrated and certified before loading commences. Familiarity with the ship’s gas monitor is crucial, especially prior to any emergent circumstances.

En Route Monitoring:

For a voyage carrying International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code-compliant coal, vigilance regarding gas alterations is essential. If the coal lacks inherent hazards like spontaneous heating or methane release, ventilation during the initial 24 hours is advised. Subsequent gas readings necessitate ventilation cessation for a recommended period of no less than four hours. With negligible methane detection or persistently low levels, sealing the holds and continuous monitoring is suggested.

Coal Prone to Self-Heating:

A combination of surging Carbon Monoxide (CO) and diminishing Oxygen (O2) levels points towards self-heating. Elevated Carbon Monoxide (CO) levels without a drop in Oxygen (O2) indicates ineffective hold sealing. While Ramneck tape and expanding foam may assist, they should be a contingency, considering cargo holds aren’t inherently airtight.

Elevated Carbon Monoxide (CO) levels, surpassing 50 ppm, suggest potential self-heating. Even with restricted Oxygen (O2), Carbon Monoxide (CO) concentrations might soar above 500 ppm. If no methane is detected or remains within International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code boundaries, the holds should be sealed till discharge.

Methane-Releasing Coals:

Certain coals emit methane and other flammable gases. Coal’s reaction with oxygen, while rare, may yield an explosive ambiance. While hatch sealing can control self-heating, if coal starts emitting flammable gases, expert advice should be sought before any ventilation.

For safety assessments, understanding the Lowest Explosive Limit (LEL) for particular gas mixtures is crucial. For methane, the Lowest Explosive Limit (LEL) stands at 5%. However, the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code states that a mere 1% methane concentration requires immediate action. Continuous gas concentration records are essential, guiding any expert advice sought. Low oxygen combined with elevated methane doesn’t necessarily indicate an explosion, but exceeding 20% of Lowest Explosive Limit (LEL) might necessitate ventilation.

What is Lowest Explosive Limit (LEL) in Bulk Coal Shipping?

The Lowest Explosive Limit (LEL) refers to the minimum concentration of a gas or vapor in air below which a flame will not propagate when an ignition source is introduced. In simpler terms, it is the lowest amount of a particular gas or vapor required in the air for it to be ignitable.

In the context of bulk coal shipping, the concern is not typically about LEL in the way it would be for volatile liquids or gases. Instead, coal can pose a danger due to the potential for self-heating and spontaneous combustion, especially in large piles or in enclosed spaces.

Coal, when stored in bulk, can generate heat through microbial action or oxidation of the coal itself. If this heat is not dissipated effectively, it can lead to increasing temperatures within the pile. As the temperature rises, the rate of oxidation also increases, leading to a faster rise in temperature. If not managed, this can lead to spontaneous combustion.

However, coal can produce flammable gases, mainly methane (CH4), which does have an LEL. For methane, the LEL is about 5% by volume in air. This means if the atmosphere contains less than 5% methane, it is considered too lean to ignite.

In bulk coal shipping, it’s important to monitor both the temperature of the coal and the atmosphere in enclosed spaces for the presence of flammable gases to ensure safety. Effective ventilation, regular inspections, and using best practices for stowage and handling can help mitigate these risks.


Coal Combustions Aboard Ships: Complexities and Challenges

Fires originating from coal aboard ships often remain modest in scale, seldom erupting into catastrophic blazes. Yet, they invariably emit copious amounts of smoke and hazardous gases. When faced with a coal or affiliated cargo aflame, inundating the hold with water isn’t a feasible solution. The sheer weight of the additional water might compromise the ship’s structural integrity, overburdening the hold’s plates. Moreover, discharging a hold brimming with tainted, potentially acidic water is both arduous and costly, given the environmental implications.

Nevertheless, water serves as an effective means to cool the mechanical clamps during discharge and to mitigate smoke by quenching smouldering sectors. Following the evacuation of the bulk of the cargo, submerging the residual might become a viable strategy to quell the flames. It remains impracticable, if not wholly impossible, to deploy bulldozers and their operators into a hold to reposition the cargo, especially if the ambient temperature and air conditions are perilous.

Coal and akin cargoes have the propensity to yield acidic effluents, potentially jeopardizing metallic structures. Consequently, assessing the pH of bilge well water becomes imperative.

If the ship remains offshore, the primary logistical impediment lies in inhibiting oxygen inflow into the holds. Alternatively, introducing inert gases, such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen, could be an option, albeit their availability may be constrained. Seeking erudite counsel becomes paramount when contemplating the utilization of inert gases. Cooling the hold’s exterior would at the very least alleviate the thermal conditions, facilitating access. If depriving the fire of oxygen proves ineffective, evacuating the cargo becomes the solitary recourse.


Bulk Coal Liquefaction During the Voyage

Should a Shipper’s declaration convey that the coal belongs to Group A, alongside Group B, it becomes imperative to meticulously examine the accompanying certification and analytical reports detailing the moisture content and its Transportable Moisture Limit (TML). The onus is to ascertain that the moisture content remains below the stipulated TML. The International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code mandates shippers to deduce the moisture content no more than a week before the loading procedure and to conduct a reevaluation under the occurrence of notable precipitation between the moments of assessment and loading. Moreover, shippers are obligated to determine the TML at an interval not exceeding half a year prior to loading, or sooner, should there be a shift in the cargo’s intrinsic nature or composition.

It is of paramount importance that the ship consistently conducts “can” evaluations during the loading phase, adhering to the directives delineated in Section 8.4 of the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code. As a sagacious measure, it might be judicious to perform these “can” examinations even in the absence of a Group A designation for the coal, especially when its state seems moist or laden with excessive fine particulate matter. Should a “can” examination reveal the presence of overt moisture or liquid conditions, immediate communication with the Managers is advised, as supplementary laboratory scrutiny and specialized counsel might become necessary.

Bulk Coal Cargo Discharge

One of the principal dilemmas linked to unloading self-heating coal cargo stems from the prodigious smoke generation, even from minuscule combustion zones. This amassed smoke, once the hatches are unlatched, can magnify the gravity of the situation. Such instances can induce unwarranted trepidation amongst the Receivers, leading to sporadic refusals to unload the cargo. Thus, it’s prudent to only unseal hatches when an unequivocal consensus on cargo discharge has been reached.

The optimal strategy revolves around swiftly eliminating the smouldering regions, contingent upon accessibility and safety benchmarks. Intermittent spraying of freshwater serves as a provisional panacea, but excessive usage could diminish the coal’s calorific attributes. Moreover, without oxygen restriction, recombustion may ensue within a truncated timespan. Freshwater is preferable over seawater for fire mitigation efforts due to potential chloride contamination repercussions.

In venues employing conveyor systems, there’s hesitancy in processing overheated coal, stemming from the apprehensions of infrastructural damage. Furthermore, dousing with water could alter the coal’s tactile properties, making it cohesive and challenging to unload.

Commencing the unloading of self-heating coal demands exhaustive and expeditious discharge, as partial unloading amplifies the oxygen reservoir, catalyzing combustion in residual cargo sections. Regrettably, any ignition during unloading, if inevitable, doesn’t invariably absolve the ship from potential claims.

Receivers often express grievances over the smoke emanating from ignited coal, both for its obstruction to accessibility and its ecological ramifications. It’s vital to ensure complete unloading, avoiding leaving partly discharged holds exposed.

When handling heated coal that emits methane, caution is paramount. The hatch’s opening could instigate a volatile concoction of methane and oxygen, risking an explosion. The absence of ignition sources and the lubrication of hatch wheels could minimize spark-induced ignitions. Soliciting expert opinions remains essential prior to initiating the discharge.

There might be initial proposals to dispel the gases through hatch vents, yet this facilitates oxygen ingress. Another suggestion could be to introduce inert gas prior to hatch opening to counteract the explosive gases. Such maneuvers should always be governed by expert insights.

Positioning fire combatants on standby becomes essential, both for immediate intervention and for onshore cargo dampening. Lightly moistening the problematic regions might permit their extraction. However, as discharge progresses, hazardous gas concentrations could hinder personnel, like bulldozer operators, from accessing the ship holds.


Bulk Coal Shipping Risks

Coal, a cargo fraught with potential peril, continually finds itself at the epicenter of severe mishaps. It seems, in numerous instances, the ship’s crew displayed an inadequate grasp of the inherent risks. On other occasions, the coal’s transportation deviated from established regulatory mandates or exemplary practices.

Consider an episode where a crewman, endeavoring to eradicate rust spots from the hatch coaming with a rotary wire brush on the deck, inadvertently risked a combustion source over a coal-laden closed hold. Tragically, as he wielded the apparatus, a nearby hold erupted in an explosion, catapulting the hatch covers skyward and flinging the unfortunate sailor overboard. This grievous event left him with profound injuries.

In a separate incident, a ship bearing Indonesian coal noted smoke emanating from one of its holds whilst anchored beyond the offloading harbor. Prior to docking, the ship was suggested to aerate the holds. Yet, in the void of explicit directives, the crew opted to proceed with ventilation, anticipating a potential abrupt docking request. Regrettably, the ship remained anchored for several ensuing days, during which multiple holds’ contents commenced spontaneous combustion.

On a distinct occasion, while a deckhand on a coal-laden ship was procuring samples from a cargo hold, he tragically succumbed at the foot of a vertical ladder. A fellow deckhand, in a rescue attempt, met a similar fate at the identical spot. This perilous chain continued, ensnaring two additional sailors. Though a valiant rescue saved three, one life was tragically lost, with the survivors necessitating medical intervention for pulmonary afflictions.

Bulk Coal and IMSBC Code

The esteemed International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code offers an intricate outline pertaining to the conveyance of coal, delineating the specific perils tied to this consignment and prescribing necessary safeguarding measures. Within the confines of the IMSBC Code, coal is designated under Group B, signifying cargoes bearing chemical hazards potent enough to instigate perilous scenarios aboard a ship. Furthermore, should 75% or more of the substance comprise minuscule particles less than 5mm, the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code categorizes coal within Group A — that is, cargoes prone to liquefaction when transported surpassing their permissible moisture threshold. Adhering scrupulously to the stipulations within the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code’s coal schedule is of paramount importance and warrants thorough comprehension.

Bulk Coal Cargo Declaration

The shipper’s proclamation of goods necessitates meticulous examination to discern the potential risks accompanying the coal set to be loaded. Nonetheless, it is imperative to recognize that, in certain global regions, the veracity of this declaration might be dubious. To illustrate, assertions concerning coal consignments from the Kalimantan district of Indonesia recurrently, albeit erroneously, negate the propensity of self-ignition. It is paramount that all coal shipments from Kalimantan be regarded with an inherent propensity to self-ignite. Should uncertainties arise, Members have the prerogative to relay the declaration to the Managers for insights.

Bulk Coal Inherent Dangers

Methane (CH4) A myriad of coal consignments exude methane, an innocuous gas that, between 5% and 16% concentrations in the air, possesses combustive qualities. It is paramount to ventilate, ensuring the methane concentration within the cargo precincts remains below 20% of the Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) for methane. When loading coal exhibiting methane risks, it’s crucial to proscribe all potential ignition sources—be it smoking, incendiary tasks, or actions potentially generating sparks—both on the deck and adjacent to the cargo precincts. Given methane’s propensity to rise, owing to its relative lightness compared to air, one should remain wary of its accumulation within deck enclosures or other chambers that feature non-airtight cargo hatch entries.

Self-ignition, Depletion of Oxygen, and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Certain coal consignments might undergo spontaneous heating due to the oxidation process, subsequently emanating carbon monoxide—a perilous, imperceptible, and scentless gas that diminishes the ambient oxygen levels. Introducing fresh air augments combustion risks, hence ventilation for such coals should be minimal, reserved solely for methane dissipation. If the temperature of self-heating coal escalates beyond 55°C, it might spontaneously combust. While thermocouples can aid in early detection, their efficacy has bounds; localized heating might remain undetected due to coal’s insulating nature. It’s not uncommon for crews to misjudge situations based solely on thermocouples. The IMSBC Code’s mandate to monitor carbon monoxide levels offers a more precise early warning sign.

For a shipment to be considered, the coal’s temperature should remain below 55°C. Comprehensive insights can be sought in the Club’s Loss Prevention Bulletin, focusing on Monitoring Self-Heating Coal Shipments Prior to Loading. Post-loading, the cargo hold’s carbon monoxide levels demand stringent monitoring to identify potential self-heating. A consistent increase over three days or a 50 ppm level suggests the onset of self-heating. The ensuing protocol is delineated in the IMSBC Code.

Breathing in environments with less than 12% oxygen can induce unconsciousness, and levels below 6% could be fatal. Oxygen depletion’s pernicious effects can manifest swiftly, incapacitating individuals before they grasp the gravity of their situation. While carbon monoxide’s noxiousness is evident even at minuscule levels, oftentimes, oxygen scarcity is the primary culprit behind mishaps.

Carbon monoxide, akin to methane, is lighter than air and could amass in enclosed spaces like deck compartments, especially if they lack gas-tight ingress provisions. Prior to entry, all compartments and cargo holds should be ascertained safe through meticulous testing. Adherence to enclosed space entry protocols is non-negotiable.

Considering the paramount significance of vigilantly supervising gas concentrations within cargo chambers and neighboring sealed areas, it is imperative that the ship’s gas detection instruments remain impeccably operational, meticulously calibrated, and free from service lapses. Crew members entrusted with these pivotal apparatuses should boast comprehensive proficiency and a profound familiarity with their operations.

Amid potential perils such as the emergence of noxious or combustible gases or diminished oxygen concentrations, portals to cargo compartments and neighboring sealed zones should be resolutely sealed. Conspicuous warning signs forbidding entry should be prominently displayed.

Bulk Coal Liquefaction

When a shipping declaration identifies coal as both Group A and Group B, it is vital to meticulously scrutinize the associated certificates and analytical reports detailing the moisture concentration and the transportable moisture threshold (TML) of the cargo, ensuring the moisture levels fall beneath the TML. The IMSBC Code mandates shippers to determine moisture levels no later than a week before loading, revisiting the evaluation if notable rainfall occurs between the assessment and loading periods. Moreover, shippers are obligated to identify the TML no later than half a year prior to loading, or sooner, should the cargo’s composition or traits evolve over time.

The ship must also routinely execute “can” assessments during loading, in alignment with the stipulations outlined in Section 8.4 of the IMSBC Code. As an auxiliary safeguard, it might be judicious to perform these tests even if the coal hasn’t been labeled as Group A, especially if it exhibits moist or humid characteristics, or the presence of minuscule particles is pronounced. If any “can” analysis yields evidence of unbound moisture or liquid conditions, higher authorities should be promptly informed, as subsequent laboratory examinations and specialized counsel might become necessary.

Bulk Coal Sulphur Content

Coal originating from particular sources might possess elevated sulphur levels. If either the coal or the cargo compartments are damp, the sulphur may interact with water, engendering sulphurous acid, which is not only caustic but can also deteriorate the ship’s steelwork, especially if the protective coatings are compromised. This chemical reaction can also yield toxic gases and hydrogen. The IMSBC Code necessitates shippers to disclose the sulphur concentration of the cargo. If such details are omitted, shippers should be pressed for this critical information. To consistently monitor potential corrosive outcomes of transporting high-sulphur coal, the ship ought to be equipped with a mechanism to ascertain the pH value of the bilge water, accessible externally from the cargo spaces.

In Summary

Should coal be scheduled for loading, the shipping declaration must be dissected meticulously to discern the cargo’s intrinsic attributes and the inherent risks. It is also pivotal to acknowledge that not all cargo declarations might be wholly accurate. Every crew member should be apprised of potential hazards prior to the loading phase, possibly during a maritime safety briefing before docking. The associated risks and requisite precautions should also be elucidated during risk evaluation sessions or during instructive toolbox discussions.