Liquefaction of Nickel Ore

Liquefaction of Nickel Ore

For countless decades, liquefaction (the transformation of mineral ores into a liquid state), culminating in a dislocation of cargo and compromised stability, has predominantly spurred maritime mishaps. Recent quandaries, culminating in numerous complete losses this annum, chiefly pertain to the transport of raw natural ores, specifically iron ore fines from India, and nickel ore from locales such as Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Caledonia. The primary instigator of these calamities and close calls remains the lax adherence of shippers to the stringent testing and certification protocols. These protocols are meticulously crafted to ascertain that cargoes are embarked only when their moisture quotient is adequately minimal, forestalling the likelihood of liquefaction throughout the journey.

Liquefaction Principles

Cargoes susceptible to liquefaction encompass those infused with minute particulates and a hint of moisture, albeit their exterior might not evidently display dampness. Prominently, mineral concentrates are renowned for such hazards. However, myriad other cargoes, encompassing fluorspar, select coal grades, pyrites, millscale, sinter/pellet feed, and the like, are prone to liquefy. Frequently, at the juncture of embarkation, these cargoes exude a dry semblance, yet harbor moisture interlaced among their particles.

During their initial loading, these cargoes typically maintain a consolidated state where the particulates engage in direct juxtaposition, thus fortifying resistance against shear strains. Amidst maritime conveyance, the cargoes undergo tumultuous agitation stemming from engine reverberations, the vessel’s own movements, and the forceful caress of waves, culminating in the cargo’s compression. This engenders a diminution in the interstices between particles. If compression escalates to an extent where the internal water volume surpasses the inter-particular voids, the internal water pressure can surge exponentially, causing the particles to be thrust apart. This abrupt phenomenon curtails the particulate friction, diminishing the cargo’s shear strength.

Consequently, the cargo might metamorphose from a solid phase to a viscid fluidic state. In such a transformation, the cargo may cascade to the vessel’s flank during a singular roll and fail to revert fully during the opposite roll, incrementally inducing a perilous tilt, which could, in dire circumstances, invoke an abrupt vessel capsize.

Liquefaction remains dormant if the cargo manifests a sufficiently nominal inherent moisture juxtaposed with an ample volume of interstitial air. This ensures that even in its utmost compact form, ample voids remain to house the entirety of its moisture, thus suppressing any water pressure escalation. The minimal moisture threshold which can trigger liquefaction is termed the Flow Moisture Point (often shortened to FMP). Its quantitative measure can oscillate significantly even among cargoes of analogous descriptions. Predicting the FMP of a distinct cargo based on its attributes, granular distribution, or chemical blueprint is implausible. Thus, each cargo, sourced from every shipper, necessitates separate laboratory scrutiny for its FMP.

If cargoes are inundated with moisture surpassing the FMP, liquefaction could transpire erratically during any voyage phase. Some cargoes have been known to undergo liquefaction, engendering catastrophic shifts almost instantaneously post-departure, while others remain stable for protracted voyages, only to succumb unpredictably. Although liquefaction threats magnify amidst tempestuous climates and tumultuous seas, no conditions can truly safeguard a cargo with an excessive moisture content. Liquefaction might unpredictably arise even under placid conditions or when the vessel is anchored or navigating at reduced velocities.

Therefore, both SOLAS and the IMSBC Code embed stipulations aimed at ensuring only cargoes with adequately reduced inherent moisture levels are embarked, avoiding the menace of liquefaction. Meticulous compliance with these provisions is paramount for the secure transport of such cargoes.


SOLAS/IMSBC Code Provisions for Cargo Liquefaction

Under SOLAS stipulations, shippers of bulk commodities must duly provide the ship’s Captain, prior to loading, with detailed written information concerning the distinctive attributes of the cargo. This should encompass its propensity to shift, and for certain cargoes like concentrates which may transform into liquid, an accompanying certificate indicating the moisture content and its allowable Transport Moisture Limit (often denoted as TML).

Only cargoes with moisture levels below the TML should be approved for transport. Contrasting the Flow Moisture Point (FMP) – ascertainable in a lab – the TML is deduced by multiplying the FMP by 0.9. Hence, a cargo exhibiting an FMP of 10% would translate to a TML of 9%. The permissible moisture level during loading (TML) is deliberately set below the threshold at which liquefaction transpires (FMP). This disparity ensures a safety buffer to accommodate variations in moisture levels and discrepancies that might arise during lab assessments of the FMP. Maintaining this safety buffer is paramount; cargoes should be dismissed if moisture levels surpass the TML, irrespective of the margin.

The IMSBC Code 2009 (mirroring its precursor, the BC Code 2004) comprehensively expounds on testing and sampling protocols requisite for shippers’ certification under SOLAS. In essence, the Code mandates:

  1. Hazard Identification: Before commencing loading, shippers must apprise the Captain if the cargo possesses a propensity to liquefy. This directive aids in discerning whether moisture and TML declarations are obligatory before loading. Essentially, any bulk cargo containing moisture and fine particles risks liquefaction. Such cargoes necessitate laboratory scrutiny to determine their flow characteristics. Should they exhibit a flow moisture point, shippers must furnish certificates detailing both moisture and TML.
  2. Moisture Content Certification: Shippers’ declaration of moisture content must attest that it represents the cargo’s mean moisture level when presented to the Captain before loading. This implies cargoes should be wholly accessible for sampling prior to loading. Proper representative samples are pivotal for accurate moisture evaluations. Sampling must occur no more than a week before loading, with supplemental tests following significant precipitation. Each cargo hold’s moisture content must be declared separately unless uniformity is proven. While concentrates often display consistent moisture levels, raw ores like iron ore fines or nickel ore can exhibit marked variations, necessitating individual moisture declarations. It’s concerning that few shippers declare individual hold moisture levels, even in inconsistent cargoes. If multiple distinct cargo types commingle in one hold, separate certificates for each are mandated. If variations in characteristics or moisture content are detected, separate assessments are obligatory. Moisture content should always remain below the respective TML for each distinct cargo parcel. Loading cargoes from varied sources doesn’t permit compensating wet batches by introducing drier ones later.
  3. TML Certification: As elucidated earlier, the TML is extracted from the FMP acquired in the lab. Several methods can determine the FMP, with three outlined in the IMSBC Code’s Appendix 2. In real-world shipping, the prevalent method is the flow table method. This subjective test demands an adept analyst familiar with early liquefaction signs. Concern arises when certain labs diverge from the stipulated IMSBC Code procedure without requisite approvals. For most processed ores, the TML remains relatively constant; thus, biannual TML tests suffice. Yet, unprocessed ores exhibit significant variability, necessitating distinct TML tests for each shipment.

Strict adherence to the IMSBC Code’s mandates is paramount to ensure only ocean-worthy cargoes are loaded. Responsibility for certification primarily lies with shippers, not the Captain. Without precise data from shippers, Captains cannot autonomously gauge cargo safety. Cargoes exceeding the TML often visually resemble those below it. Alarm signs, such as visible water or a muddy cargo appearance, only manifest when moisture levels are egregiously excessive.


Liquefaction of Nickel Ore and Iron Ore Fines

A plethora of mineral cargoes exist that have the potential to liquefy, each distinct in its visual and tactile characteristics. A certain sub-category of these cargoes carries an especially perilous amalgamation of risk attributes, responsible for a significant fraction of recent incidents, narrowly averted disasters, and disagreements at loading ports when handling liquefiable goods. Foremost among these cargoes are raw ores, notably iron ore fines, predominantly shipped from India, and nickel ore, primarily from Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Caledonia.

Contrary to concentrates, these ores are extracted directly from surface mines in mineral-abundant and frequently isolated regions, offered for maritime transport with minimal to no refinement. Hence, while concentrates exhibit consistent particle size and consistency, raw ores are diverse, comprising a blend of fine ore, clayey substances, small stones, and occasional larger fragments.

For shipowners considering the transportation of these goods and for Captains tasked with their loading, a pressing concern is the absence of specific listings for iron ore fines and nickel ore in the IMSBC Code. This omission makes it less apparent that they are indeed liquefiable cargoes. If the Captain is unaware of the associated risks, he relies solely on the shipper’s accurate declaration of the cargo’s liquefaction threat. While many shippers do recognize this danger, providing moisture and TML certificates (though sometimes with inaccuracies), others do not. Without specialized knowledge, the Captain might struggle to demand a moisture and TML declaration prior to initiating the loading.

Establishing a sampling and testing procedure that aligns with SOLAS and IMSBC Code stipulations is considerably more challenging for raw ores compared to concentrate cargoes. The IMSBC measures, conceived with concentrates in mind, assume a uniform particle size and moisture spread across the entire cargo, conditions not present in raw ores.

Regrettably, although testing raw ore cargoes is technically intricate compared to concentrates, their shippers often lack the requisite expertise, technical capabilities, and occasionally even the intent to fulfill SOLAS and IMSBC Code mandates. Due to the ore’s raw state, shippers have minimal control over moisture levels, and some might struggle to provide cargoes compliant with SOLAS standards.

Several technical considerations arise when shippers formulate their certification processes. The composition of raw ores can fluctuate significantly even within a single mining site, and is further complicated when sourced from multiple sites spread across vast terrains. Consequently, the TML might differ substantially across the cargo in an erratic and unpredictable fashion.

Moisture distribution within each shipment is typically inconsistent. These cargoes, originating from tropical climates prone to intense rainfall, are often exposed to erratic moisture surges during transportation and storage. Moreover, the IMSBC Code states that the prevalent TML determination method is unsuitable for materials with particles exceeding 7mm, posing a quandary for laboratories as these cargoes often contain such particles. To circumvent this, particles above 7mm are often screened out prior to testing. However, this raises safety concerns if executed inaccurately.

Due to the heterogeneous nature of raw ore cargoes, each shipment demands laboratory TML tests. Thus, shippers need proximate, well-equipped labs for TML tests to ensure swift results, unlike concentrate shippers who can periodically send samples to established overseas labs.

In countries like India, despite an increasing number of labs, there’s a paucity of data to evaluate their consistency and alignment with international standards. In nations like Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Caledonia, mining sites are often exceedingly remote. Loading transpires at natural docks close to these sites, devoid of advanced infrastructure. Consequently, most mines resort to their internal laboratories, many of which, upon detailed examination, are found inadequately equipped and not strictly adhering to IMSBC Code procedures.


Safe Loading of Nickel Ore

The esteemed International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (Intercargo) has recently unveiled its “Guide for the Safe Loading of Nickel Ore”. Crafted with precision and clarity, this guide utilizes an illustrative flowchart to elucidate the nuanced steps required for safely shipping nickel ore, all while accentuating the paramount issue of cargo liquefaction. The document is meticulously tailored to cater to a broad spectrum of industry stakeholders, spanning shippers, shipowners, and commanding officers.

Beyond the graphical representation that underscores key considerations during nickel ore loading, the guide firmly advises:
• Diligent shippers to eschew any mischaracterization of their cargo. For genuine and precise cargo declarations, shippers should ardently follow protocols for meticulous sampling, rigorous testing, and steadfast control of cargo moisture levels. This includes measures to safeguard cargo on barges against any unwarranted water exposure or precipitation.
• Prudent shipowners to vigilantly verify that cargo-related paperwork aligns with the stipulations of the IMSBC Code.
• Prior to finalizing arrangements, chartering divisions are urged to consult their intrinsic protocols concerning the acceptance of nickel ore shipments. Furthermore, Intercargo astutely highlights the inherent limitations of the prevalent “can test”, asserting its inadequacy as a standalone metric for cargo safety assessment.

For those keen on delving deeper into the intricacies, a detailed version of the guide is accessible via the provided link. Please check


Shifting Solid Bulk Cargoes

Solid bulk commodities possess the potential to displace either by gliding or undergoing liquefaction. Though the mechanics underlying each phenomenon differ, their dire outcomes remain consistent: the vessel may either list, capsize, or endure structural impairment. Dense goods, like ore concentrates, inherently boast a significant mass-to-volume ratio. Thus, even a minor displacement can equate to a significant weight. When in motion, a vessel’s momentum can exert immense forces on its structure. This force magnifies when the cargo’s elevation within the vessel surpasses the external sea level, thereby nullifying buoyancy’s counteractive power. Add recurrent or successive displacements to this equation, and the result can be intense structural stress, escalating the potential for fractures and breakdowns.

Regarding stability, cargo movements can precipitate myriad ramifications. A cargo shift will induce a tilt if not repositioned by subsequent vessel motion. Beyond concerns of amplified draft, the ship’s incline becomes the pivot for its oscillations. Typically, this implies a diminished counteractive force for tilting towards the listed side, compared to an upright ship. Consequently, the energy propelling the vessel back from tilted angles will be inferior to an upright vessel. When reaching the point of deck immersion, stability further diminishes. A tilt might also amplify tilting angles, initiating a cascade effect, potentially causing other goods to break free or shift. Solid bulk commodities that oscillate between vessel sides, emulating liquid dynamics within a partially filled chamber, can introduce a Free Surface Effect, which similarly diminishes ship stability. The most perilous outcome is the vessel’s capsizing, especially when cargo seldom reverts to its original placement, a situation that can escalate rapidly with devastating results.

Cargo sliding is a manifestation of its insufficient cohesiveness against vessel oscillations. Cohesiveness fluctuates based on moisture content and stockpile height. Sand serves as a pertinent illustration. While there’s a threshold for sand pile height, damp sand typically allows a taller accumulation. Grain, known for its fluidity, frequently experiences sliding. The International Maritime Organisation’s 1991 guidelines for Solid Bulk Cargoes assert that non-cohesive bulks with a repose angle of 30 degrees or less should adhere to grain stowage provisions. These provisions, delineated by the IMO Grain Rules of 1982, encompass explicit stability criteria. Furthermore, there’s some consensus that sliding can emerge when a saturated foundational layer forms, permitting the drier top layer to displace atop it.

Liquefaction of solid bulks hinges on particle dimensions, distribution, and moisture levels. Particle structure dictates moisture drainage capabilities, which can vary during marine voyages due to ship movements. Such dynamics can compact the cargo, entrapping moisture among particles. When saturation reaches a critical point, the cargo enters a flow state, known as the Flow Moisture Point (FMP). The aforementioned IMO Bulk Cargo Code utilizes the Transportable Moisture Limit (TML), equivalent to 90% of the FMP, as the apex moisture level safe for marine transport in conventional ships. Commodities like iron ore concentrates and coal slurry, characterized by minuscule particles and moisture from pre-loading processes, are particularly susceptible to liquefaction.

Lastly, it’s noteworthy that solid bulks are increasingly transported in Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC). Experience suggests that cargo displacement threats remain prevalent. Solid bulks susceptible to sliding can exert pressure on even the most rigid IBCs. If there’s inadequate support or the stow is improperly fortified, a complete stow collapse might transpire.


Liquefaction of Scale Dust

Amid the ever-expanding realm of solid bulk cargo lies the enigma of dust, a byproduct chiefly derived from industrial flues. Over the years, industrial sectors have been mandated to curtail environmental pollutants. In pursuit of this, chimneys are often adorned with filters. The detritus garnered by these filters is conventionally labeled as filter dust. Concurrently, material accumulating on the interior surfaces of the chimney begets another variant: scale dust. The composition of these remnants fluctuates immensely, with many posing potential chemical threats. In an increasingly eco-conscious society, these dusts can no longer be relegated to open slag piles or landfills. Instead, recycling emerges as a favored alternative, leading, in part, to the aquatic transport of this dust.

The vessel under scrutiny embarked from Algeciras, Spain, with the majority of its central hold occupied by scale dust. Notably, vast portions of this dust were observed in open land storage, vulnerable to nature’s whims. Upon meticulous inspection, heightened moisture content was discerned. Even as the master expressed apprehensions regarding the cargo’s condition, loading persisted amidst bouts of rain, further exacerbating the moisture predicament. Astonishingly, no official documentation detailing the dust’s properties was presented by the shippers. The master’s concerns were dismissed nonchalantly, with stakeholders asserting the irrelevance of the rain and moisture to the cargo’s quality.

Upon the journey’s commencement, the vessel braved turbulent waters, undergoing bouts of intense rolling and pitching. Four days in, unsettling noises emanated from the hold housing the scale dust. A daunting revelation awaited: the dust had transmuted into a fluid state, battering the hold’s confines. Inspecting the hold proved perilous, with a towering geyser erupting upon access. However, the subsequent disarray atop the ship’s superstructure was but a minor quandary. The vessel soon listed, though strategic ballasting ensured its eventual arrival at the discharge port unscathed.

A post-voyage assessment divulged that the liquefied dust’s forceful displacement had breached into an adjacent hold. This culminated in disputes with the consignees, who attributed the onus of loss and damage to the vessel. It was unveiled that a moisture certificate, concealed from the master but presented to the consignees, proclaimed a moisture content of roughly 11%. However, subsequent evaluations at the discharge locale unveiled a figure nearly double that amount.

Precautions for Cargo Liquefaction

The vessel’s fortunate culmination of its voyage underscores potential pitfalls. The sagacious reader, having perused the aforementioned chronicle, might discern various junctures where additional safeguards would be prudent. Presented hereafter are pivotal considerations when grappling with solid bulk cargoes that might display a proclivity for movement.

  1. Conduct a thorough visual survey of the cargo, probing its exposure duration and magnitude to moisture.
  2. Secure the vessel’s independent samples, ensuring ample quantity for potential testing.
  3. Anticipate shippers’ assertions regarding cargo properties. Insist on requisite documentation and remain steadfast in the face of discrepancies.
  4. Scrutinize shippers’ declarations meticulously. Ensure their accuracy and contemporaneity.
  5. Fiercely contest any attempt to transport cargoes surpassing the TML in moisture content.
  6. Endeavor to optimize the cargo space, mindful of stability and stress constraints.
  7. Incorporate longitudinal separations and over-stowing to mitigate cargo shift and its concomitant forces.
  8. Strive for a uniform cargo disposition within its compartment.
  9. Eschew stowing moisture-laden cargoes in shared spaces.
  10. Refrain from loading during precipitation.
  11. Prioritize the emptiness of compartments adjacent to the cargo.
  12. Ensure the vessel strikes a balance in its stability, neither too stiff nor too lax.
  13. Vigilance regarding bilges is paramount.
  14. Weather routing is highly recommended to circumvent extreme meteorological conditions.
  15. Consult pertinent maritime regulations and guidelines.
  16. In moments of uncertainty, seek external expertise.

In summation, the vagaries of shifting solid bulk cargoes are not only financially onerous but imperil lives. These hazards, tangible and menacing, necessitate unwavering adherence to safety measures.


Crux of Cargo Liquefaction

One might naturally question the necessity of dedicating time, resources, and effort into orchestrating their individual cargo inspection, assessment, and analysis. Especially when, as dictated by the IMSBC Code, it is the shipper’s responsibility to ensure that their cargo descriptions are both comprehensive and accurate, and their stated test results reflect the utmost veracity, epitomizing the actual cargo set for loading. At the very core of this quandary are the flawed declarations and certificates dispatched by the shippers. These misrepresentations vary—from wrongfully designating a cargo as Group C (a classification implying it’s non-liquefiable) to erroneous data concerning Flow Moisture Point (FMP) and Transportable Moisture Limit (TML), or the actual moisture content.

Glimpsing into reports from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), there have been tragic outcomes, presumably due to ships and their crew placing unwavering trust in the precision of these declarations and certificates. In a noteworthy instance, a 2010 circular from the IMO alluded to grave mishaps during 2009’s monsoon season and several close shaves involving vessels ferrying iron ore fines. This document highlighted the negligence of certain shippers who falsely categorized iron ore fines as mere iron ore—a Group C commodity. Subsequent to this, the maritime world mourned the loss of 45 sailors and three ships transporting nickel ore from Indonesia. In a compelling declaration, China conveyed to the IMO in 2011 that, as per the evidence they procured, these mishaps transpired due to a loss of stability from cargo liquefaction and consequential shifts during inclement weather. Paradoxically, the documents handed to the shipmasters indicated the cargo’s moisture content to be beneath the Transportable Moisture Limit (TML).

The catalysts for these misrepresentations are manifold. They oscillate between sheer ignorance of the IMSBC Code’s existence, an inadequate comprehension of its provisions, inept sampling and analytical methodologies, and in more sinister cases, intentional tampering with samples or test results. The last scenario is particularly alarming, often manifesting when shippers either lack the will or means to ensure the cargo’s moisture content stays beneath the TML—a feat demanding significant investment in both time and resources for moisture extraction. This is especially prevalent when cargoes are dispatched directly from their source without undergoing any refinement.

While unreliable shipper declarations are certainly the primary concern, this issue is further exacerbated by a plethora of supplementary challenges, a few of which merit discussion here.

The Legacy of Successful Shipments

Numerous shippers and charterers ardently highlight the multitude of cargoes that have seamlessly reached their intended ports without any unforeseen incidents, and without shipowners resorting to supplementary sampling and examination. The rationale behind such successes is multifaceted, ranging from the inherent diversity of cargoes in different holds to unpredictable sea and atmospheric conditions. Some voyage guidelines, rather naively, recommend captains steer clear of tumultuous seas or inclement weather—a suggestion that overlooks the unpredictable nature of meteorological phenomena, especially at microlevels. A noteworthy element to consider is the TML being pegged at 90% of the FMP, offering a 10% safety buffer. Hence, even if a cargo’s moisture content surpasses the TML, it might not necessarily reach the perilous FMP threshold. That said, it’s a sobering reality that the exact science behind why certain cargoes liquefy while others remain unaffected remains enigmatic. It’s plausible that the drafting of the IMSBC Code took such uncertainties into account. Regrettably, numerous shippers, and at times even vessel owners, don’t seem compelled to adhere strictly to the IMSBC Code’s mandates. Tales of a cargo rejected by one shipowner only to be accepted by another aren’t uncommon in maritime circles.

Cargo Sampling

The IMSBC Code elucidates stipulations for sampling. Yet, frequently, the acquisition of truly representative samples proves elusive. Often, shipowners are denied entry to coastal reserves, assuming they exist, for certain merchandise is sourced directly from the earth and dispatched to vessels. Even when granted access, it remains ambiguous which reserves the shippers intend to use for the vessel’s cargo. The volume of samples needed for a comprehensive analysis introduces logistical complexities, especially if the investigative facility is internationally based. For instance, a 40,000 MT reserve, as per the IMSBC Code, demands the collation of 200 samples which are then merged into a minimum of 50 sub-composite samples. Shipowners eager to circumvent delays by initiating preliminary survey procedures could be hamstrung by the Code’s mandate, which asserts that the gap between moisture evaluation and sampling should not surpass seven days. If unsheltered goods become wet due to unforeseen rainfall between evaluations, supplementary analysis is imperative. It’s salient to highlight the peril of stakeholders and their crews placing undue reliance on ‘can tests’. Though such tests may suggest cargo unsuitability, only a meticulous laboratory examination can verify cargo’s appropriateness for shipment. To accentuate this distinction, an amendment to the IMSBC Code, sanctioned during the 16th Session of the IMO Sub-Committee on Hazardous Commodities, Solidified Goods, and Containers, emphasized the restricted applicability of the ‘can test’, stating, “Even if samples remain arid post a can test, the material’s moisture quotient might still surpass the Transportable Moisture Limit (TML).”

Testing Liquefiable Cargo

Some merchants have expressed skepticism about the IMSBC Code’s recognized evaluations, especially concerning cargo with extensive particulate dimensions or those containing minimal liquefiable fine materials. An acute shortage of neutral laboratories adept at executing these tests, especially concerning FMP/TML, poses a significant dilemma globally. Given the geographical dispersal of proficient laboratories, often outside the originating nation, time and financial implications can be substantial. Occasionally, shipowners commence loading operations pending lab results, risking complications if subsequent analysis deems the cargo perilous. Nevertheless, commendable advancements, especially in India, witnessed experts observing rigorous evaluations in several impartial labs, frequently under the tutelage of these experts.

What happens if the Cargo Already Loaded?

When goods are onboard and doubts about their safety emerge, the daunting task is discerning which portions of the bulk are unsuitable. Consequently, the entirety of the cargo often necessitates evacuation. Yet, orchestrating a re-discharge at the loading point can be a herculean endeavor, perhaps due to inadequate infrastructure or logistical hurdles in returning goods to shore from barges. Local customs protocols might further complicate matters, deeming cargo as exported once loaded. When shipowners confront the quandary of hazardous cargo onboard, legal counsel is frequently sought, leading to potential litigations against charterers and other stakeholders. Onboard cargo moisture adjustment is intricate, and efforts to rectify it, despite employing diverse strategies, have often met with marginal success, particularly in fully occupied holds.

Cargoes not listed in the IMSBC Code

While the IMSBC Code omits certain cargoes prone to liquefaction, such as nickel ore and iron ore fines, this omission engenders ambiguity. Yet, Section 1.3 of the IMSBC Code acknowledges the possibility that some liquefiable cargoes might not be encompassed within its listings. It further posits that numerous cargoes with fine particulates, when imbued with elevated moisture levels, are susceptible to fluidity. Consequently, any moist cargo infused with a significant percentage of fine particulates ought to undergo flow characteristic examinations prior to embarkation.

Moreover, the IMSBC Code delineates Group C cargoes as those immune to liquefaction, whilst Group A cargoes are identified as those predisposed to liquefy. The verbiage underscores a prudential stance—a stance warranted given the potential dire repercussions.

During the 16th Convening of the IMO Sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes, and Containers, a consensus was reached, establishing that cargoes with a liquefaction propensity should be classified under Group A. As previously alluded to, Section 1.3 of the IMSBC Code addresses cargoes not enumerated within the IMSBC Code. Should such a cargo exhibit liquefaction tendencies, the IMSBC Code mandates the establishment of preliminary conditions for transport. This must be determined by a triumvirate of competent authorities: the port state of loading, the ship’s flag state, and the port state set to receive the cargo.


How might shipowners take precautions for Liquefiable Cargo?

It could be argued that the IMSBC Code has already established a robust foundation for the secure transportation of solid bulk cargoes prone to liquefaction. The forthcoming modifications to the IMSBC Code, anticipated to be implemented no earlier than 2013, aim to reinforce the safety measures, particularly for shippers. Yet, the efficacy of these precautions largely hinges upon the shipper’s adherence. If the declarations and certifications from shippers remain dubious, shipowners and their affiliated P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club) will remain reticent to diminish their protective measures. Thus, for shipowners, the pragmatic course of action includes:

  • Being cognizant of potential challenges.
  • Recognizing the intricacies and potential setbacks, such as those previously alluded to.
  • Departments overseeing chartering and operations, and most paramount, the crew onboard, should be vigilant of the hazards and requisite protective measures.
  • Should they harbor reservations regarding the cargo’s safety, shipowners must be resolute in their willingness to voyage without freight and face the ensuing repercussions, a choice decidedly safer than its alternatives.

Prior to the Fixture/Order:

  • For timely chartered vessels, verify the permissibility of the cargo under the charterparty, contemplating its omission given the associated inconvenience, expenses, and risks.
  • If shipowners are inclined to transport these cargoes (in compliance with the IMSBC Code), they should delineate their stipulations to the charterer well in advance.
  • Endeavor to incorporate the charterparty clause endorsed by the International Group of P&I Clubs into the agreement.
  • Refrain from assenting to charterparty clauses that might contravene the IMSBC Code or inhibit shipowners from commissioning specific surveyors or experts.

Upon Fixture/Order:

  • Insist upon an accurate cargo declaration and its designated Bulk Cargo Shipping Name.
  • Refer to the IMSBC Code.
  • Promptly liaise with the P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club) for counsel concerning specific cargoes or nations, facilitating timely sampling and impartial evaluations to reduce potential delays.
  • Resolve any ambiguities in declarations or certificates with charterers before the vessel reaches the loading dock.
  • Acknowledge that local assistance for the captain might necessitate considerable time, occasionally spanning days.

Before Loading:

  • Mandate proper documentation as per the IMSBC Code, inclusive of the shipper’s declaration and certificates detailing moisture content and TML/FMP.
  • Cross-reference the shipper’s documents with the stipulations of the IMSBC Code.
  • Reject any cargo, or its segments, that hasn’t undergone thorough evaluation and documentation verifying its safety in accordance with the IMSBC Code.
  • Uphold the captain’s paramount authority, as per SOLAS, to decline or halt cargo loading if there are concerns about the cargo’s condition jeopardizing the vessel’s safety.

In conclusion, the crux of the dilemma regarding transporting cargoes susceptible to liquefaction seems to be imprecise shipper declarations and certifications. While the catalysts for liquefaction remain somewhat enigmatic, the IMSBC Code’s prudence is entirely justified given the potential catastrophic outcomes. Until the liquefaction risks associated with a specific cargo can be discerned with greater precision, the imperative role of authorities at loading ports is to ensure shippers’ compliance with the IMSBC Code. Should they falter, shipowners and their P&I Clubs must persist in their vigilance. Shipowners venturing risks, whether deliberate or inadvertent, might ultimately confront the repercussions independently.

Liquefaction of Sinter Feed

Sinter Feed and Liquefaction Concerns

Sinter feed, a form of iron concentrate brimming with fine particles and moisture, bears a striking resemblance to iron ore fines. This similarity places it at peril of liquefaction, potentially causing the cargo to shift and destabilizing its foundation. Historically, liquefaction has been the presumed cause behind a multitude of maritime tragedies, leading to a lamentable loss of sailor lives. In the current annum, two bulletins from the International Group have been disseminated, raising alarms about the perils of liquefaction, emphasizing precautions related specifically to iron ore fines and nickel ore.

Pertinent Challenges

The Association has discerned instances where sinter feed has been erroneously declared as a Group C cargo (resistant to liquefaction) as per the IMSBC Code. Such a declaration starkly violates the Code, given that sinter feed is categorized under Group A (categorized under “Mineral concentrates”). The latter is prone to liquefy if its moisture level surpasses its Transportable Moisture Limit (TML), elucidated in the Code as 90% of the Flow Moisture Point (FMP). There are circulating accounts of inadequate local survey proficiency, with some surveyors allegedly representing both shippers and shipowners— a glaring ethical discrepancy. Moreover, the presence of trustworthy facilities that can evaluate the FMP in line with the Code’s methodologies seems scanty. Shippers have on occasion presented cargo sourced from stockpiles that remain unexamined.

These challenges are intensified when torrential rains augment the cargo’s moisture content. As alluded to in prior notifications, the rudimentary ‘can’ test should not supersede sophisticated laboratory assessments, which squarely rest on the Shippers’ shoulders. The Code’s Section 8 dictates that observable liquefaction indicators mandate further laboratory examinations prior to the cargo’s approval for boarding. Reliance solely on the ‘can’ test is ill-advised. While it may signify a cargo’s unsuitability for transport, its aptness can solely be ascertained via laboratory scrutiny. With Brazil seemingly lacking dependable testing infrastructure, experts have occasionally dispatched samples to distant locales like the UK for evaluation, leading to inevitable setbacks. It’s crucial to underscore the paramountcy of eschewing the loading of untested cargo, or segments thereof, which could prove arduous to offload once onboard.

Survey Expenditures and P&I Club Provisions

The primary rationale behind cargo surveys, particularly concerning sinter feed, iron ore fines, and nickel ore, is to vouchsafe their secure transit. Thus, the P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club) does not defray the associated survey costs. These costs might not be seen as a tactic to thwart or diminish losses, since adherence to the Code should inherently curtail unwarranted exposures under P&I provisions. Yet, in certain scenarios, survey expenses might be reimbursed wholly or in part, particularly if employed in the defence against a P&I claim.

While the P&I Club endeavors to aid shipowners confronting these vexing cargoes, it’s imperative to denote that non-compliance with the Code could potentially jeopardize P&I Club coverage. Transporting such cargoes could precipitate a gamut of claims, with Defence coverage possibly being applicable. This includes survey fees linked to such claims, but only if sanctioned in advance by the P&I Club.

Guidance and Safeguards

Shipowners are advised to meticulously appraise the financial implications and inherent risks of transporting such cargo prior to committing to new agreements. If the cargo isn’t explicitly excluded, it would be judicious to incorporate clauses that transfer liability to charterers.


Liquefaction of Iron Ore

It may have come to the attention of the shipowners the challenges that have recently surfaced concerning the liquefaction of iron ore fines sourced from India and shipped from its ports. However, analogous issues have transpired with comparable shipments worldwide, thus it is imperative to treat these cargoes as perpetually susceptible to liquefaction, independent of their provenance.

Liquefaction of mineral ores, culminating in a shift of cargo and a destabilized balance, has been the nemesis of numerous marine tragedies over the span of decades. A recent surge of incidents resulting in significant losses, especially involving iron ore fines from Indian ports, has magnified the scrutiny on the non-compliance with the prerequisites for its safe transit. Notably, we’ve observed similar situations with nickel ore cargoes from Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Caledonia.

Typically, the Southwest Monsoon prevails from June to September, predominantly impacting India’s western shoreline, whereas the Northeast Monsoon, reigning from December to March, affects the eastern coast predominantly. The commencement of the Southwest Monsoon serves as a poignant reminder for us to reexamine this subject in this circular.

Key catalysts of these calamities stem from the lackluster adherence by certain shippers to the established testing and certification criteria mandated by SOLAS and the IMSBC Code 2009. These guidelines ascertain cargoes are embarked only if they possess sufficiently low moisture, thereby preventing liquefaction en route. Disturbingly, Indian iron ore fines often lay exposed pre-shipment, making them wholly vulnerable to the elements during this interim. The quandaries of moist cargo and its intrinsic moisture content amplify during monsoon seasons.

Cargoes laden beyond their Flow Moisture Point (FMP) may unpredictably liquefy during any voyage stage. The peril of liquefaction amplifies under tumultuous weather, yet no sailing conditions are foolproof for cargo bearing precarious moisture levels, as liquefaction might transpire even amidst placidity, whether anchored or cruising leisurely.

Given its capricious nature, it is paramount that voyage duration and prevailing as well as anticipated climatic conditions never lull one into transporting cargoes prone to liquefaction beyond their accepted Transportable Moisture Limit. For such compelling reasons, both SOLAS and the IMSBC Code embed provisions ensuring only cargoes with minimal inherent moisture are loaded. Unwavering compliance remains the sole safeguard for transporting these cargo types.

As a protective measure, given prior encounters with iron ore fines from India, shipowners are counselled to exercise heightened prudence when loading such commodities. Ensuring unsuitable cargoes are discerned and declined before embarkation, and rigorous measures ascertain compliance with SOLAS and adherence to the IMSBC Code, becomes paramount. In situations where cargoes might encounter moisture during loading, augmented sampling becomes imperative.

Even though the onus of certification falls on the shipper per the IMSBC Code, certificate data might occasionally be erroneous. Such discrepancies arise from flawed sample analyses, inadequately equipped facilities, or unrepresentative test samples. Hence, it’s vital that ship owners and masters verify cargo’s maritime suitability.

Despite heightened moisture exposure during monsoon periods, ship owners must ensure unwavering vigilance year-round when loading iron ore fines. The Association ardently advises shipowners to seek assistance from local representatives or the Association to enlist adept surveyors to guide masters pre and during loading, ensuring SOLAS compliance and strict IMSBC Code adherence.

While freight disputes might not directly pertain to the safe conveyance of iron ore fines from India, it behooves us to spotlight this matter now. Certain Chinese ports have reportedly halted low-grade iron ore discharges lacking requisite import permits. This can instigate considerable vessel delays and incite disputes over facets such as freight and demurrage concerning Indian iron ore. Recent advisories from pertinent Chinese associations suggest rigorous scrutiny on iron ore imports with iron content below 60%. Thus, prior to importing iron ore to China, shipowners should liaise with relevant stakeholders, ensuring requisite permits are in place to circumvent superfluous conflicts and vessel detentions. Comparable prudence is advised for spot cargoes of inferior-grade iron ore destined for China.


Secure Transportation of Iron Ore Fines via Indian Ports


The maritime community might recall the unfortunate incidents in 2009 when two vessels, the MV Asian Forest and the MV Black Rose, tragically succumbed to the sea after the liquefaction of their iron ore fines cargo, sourced from the Indian ports of Mangalore and Paradip. Various other episodes of liquefaction, especially after the Indian monsoon season, have led to vessels becoming perilously unstable, forcing them to seek sanctuary. Some cargoes, upon inspection, revealed a moisture level surpassing the Transportable Moisture Limit (TML) before the ship’s departure, which subsequently led to the local port authorities halting their journey until corrective measures were taken, causing significant delays.

The Ministry of Shipping, under the aegis of the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) in India, embarked on inquiries regarding these sinkings and inaugurated a committee to scrutinize the secure loading and transportation of iron ore derivatives from Indian ports. Following their extensive studies, the DGS has disseminated several Merchant Shipping Notices, the most recent being M Notice No. 9 of 2010, dated 27th August 2010. Concurrently, the group has engaged in discussions with the DGS about the implications of these notices and their alignment with the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (referred to as the Code). The aforementioned M Notice No. 9 is slated to be incorporated into India’s new Carriage of Goods Regulations.

Furthering their commitment, the Indian Government furnished a detailed dossier to the 87th session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in May 2010. This encompassed the outcomes of their investigation into the mishaps and elucidated the corrective steps initiated, along with an array of recommendations pertaining to the transportation of iron ore fines.

Given the gravity of the events mentioned, it’s paramount for shipowners to ascertain that both local and international mandates, inclusive of the Code’s regulations regarding the handling and transportation of iron ore derivatives from Indian ports, are meticulously adhered to.

International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code)

The IMSBC Code, sanctioned under SOLAS 1974 and its subsequent Protocols, which have been integrated into the Indian Merchant Shipping Act of 1958 (with amendments), outlines globally accepted stipulations for the secure stowage and shipment of solid bulk cargoes. This encompasses cargoes prone to liquefaction, like iron ore fines. The Code will attain mandatory international status come 1st January 2011, but in India, it’s already obligatory due to M Notice No. 9.

For cargoes susceptible to liquefaction (designated as Group A cargoes), documentary evidence delineating the cargo’s moisture content at the time of shipment and the TML is essential. Any cargo with moisture surpassing the TML is deemed unfit for loading, with the exception of specific ships equipped for such transportation.


Ship Master’s Responsibilities: The ship’s captain or their proxy must supervise the loading process in its entirety. Loading must only commence post-receipt of the necessary cargo data. The captain possesses the overarching authority to halt loading should there be apprehensions regarding cargo safety.

Shipper’s Duties:

  1. Cargo Information: The shipper is required to furnish the ship’s captain with all pertinent data and documentation pre-loading to ensure safe transportation.
  2. Documentation: The paperwork should encompass: a) A certificate denoting the moisture content of the loaded cargo in each hold. b) A certificate specifying the cargo’s TML and the Flow Moisture Point (FMP) test outcome from a qualified laboratory.
  3. Laboratories: The shipper must highlight the laboratory that conducted tests on cargo samples. It’s advised to verify the laboratory’s credibility through local correspondents.
  4. Stockpiles: The shipper must identify the stockpiles sourcing the cargo.
  5. Barges: If used, each barge should be identifiable by the master or the designated surveyor.

Challenges with Iron Ore Fines Shipments from India

Shipowners have confronted numerous challenges, such as:

  • Misrepresentation of cargoes to bypass the Code.
  • Failing to declare iron ore fines as Group A cargo.
  • Absence or inaccuracies in certificates, leading to precarious cargo shipment.
  • Commercial pressures to expedite shipments sans accurate documentation.
  • Limitations in charter parties.
  • Direct delivery from mines without stockpiling.
  • Outdated moisture content certifications.


Suggested Precautions:

  1. Ensure no commencement of loading transpires until the captain secures all essential cargo data and documents/certificates mandated by the Code or regional standards, thereby confirming the cargo’s safety for loading and transportation.
  2. Upon conferring with the Association, designate a surveyor for the vessel well before loading as an aid to the captain. This might be a regional necessity. Yet, it must be transparent to port authorities, shippers, and charterers that such an appointment doesn’t absolve shippers of their responsibilities as per the Code or regional directives.

Surveyor’s stipulated roles should encompass: (a) Assisting the captain in adhering to the Code and regional edicts. (b) Collaborating with shippers to pinpoint the stockpiles for the forthcoming cargo shipment, ensuring the meticulous collection of samples in alignment with sections 4.4 and 4.6 of the Code. (c) Procuring samples on behalf of the owners for analysis in a neutral competent lab. (d) Working alongside an independent specialist to verify the lab’s adherence to Appendix 2 of the Code. (e) Comparing shipper’s certificates against owners’ test outcomes for TML and moisture content, staying vigilant of suspicious certificates and moisture levels nearing the TML. Any significant rainfall between testing and loading necessitates retesting by the shipper. (f) Overseeing the entire loading process, closely monitoring meteorological conditions and potential damp cargo, especially on barges. (g) Halting loading operations if additional moisture or can tests are required on any segment of the presented cargo, adhering to sections 4.5.2 and 8.4 of the Code. (h) Ensuring cargo, whether from designated stockpiles or barges, is closely tracked and verified during shipment. (i) Mandating a pause in loading during rain. (j) Thoroughly scrutinizing cargo from exposed barges and, if moisture content is suspect, initiating ‘can’ tests, especially post-rainfall. The IMSBC Code’s Section 8 describes the ‘can’ test, but emphasizes it shouldn’t replace the shipper’s lab tests.

  1. If the captain or his designated surveyor is handed a document soliciting their endorsement of the cargo’s safety, it should be promptly declined. The onus rests on the shipper, and any signed endorsement might compromise the shipowner’s rights to hold the shipper accountable in case of future misfortunes.
  2. Report any undue commercial influence to the Association for its escalation to the DGS.
  3. Before consenting to transport iron ore fines, shipowners should strategize their contractual protections, perhaps by integrating suitable clauses in the charterparty. Conversely, shipowners shouldn’t yield to pressure undermining their rights to rigorously apply the Code, select independent surveyors, or test cargo samples.
  4. Shipowners, if they harbor reservations regarding the iron ore cargo’s contractual or safe carriage, should direct them to the Club.

Potential Repercussions of Non-adherence to the Code: The ramifications of jeopardizing human life, harming the environment, and property loss are glaringly evident. However, shipowners should also recognize that non-compliance might render their Club cover null and void. All P&I Clubs (Protection and Indemnity Club) essentially have congruent rules, disallowing liabilities, costs, or expenses stemming from hazardous trades or expeditions.


Safe Shipping of Nickel Ore

As many might recall, during October and November of 2010, three ships named MV Jian Fu Star, MV Nasco Diamond, and MV Hong Wei tragically met their fate in the deep waters, ferrying nickel ore from Indonesia to China, resulting in the lamentable demise of forty-four sailors. While the precise reasons for these calamities remain elusive, one must note that cargoes like nickel ore, akin to iron ore fines and numerous concentrates, possess the potential to liquefy. This occurs when their moisture surpasses the Transportable Moisture Limit (TML) during loading. Such liquefaction imperils the ship’s stability, potentially culminating in catastrophic capsizing. It stands to reason that these three ill-fated vessels may have succumbed due to cargo liquefaction.

In recent times, there have been alarming accounts of nickel ore cargoes, sourced from both Indonesia and the Philippines, undergoing liquefaction, endangering the vessel’s equilibrium. Thankfully, these incidents stopped short of dooming the ships. In one particularly harrowing episode, the ship ran aground, incurring significant hull damage. Presently, nickel ore extraction is concentrated in four Philippine locales: Santa Cruz (Luzon), Surigao and Tubay (Mindanao), and Rio Tuba (Palawan Island).

One cannot overlook the fact that liquefaction of certain ore cargoes can be triggered by typical sea voyage incidents, such as the vessel’s undulating motions or vibrations from onboard machinery. The International Group did not hesitate to voice its apprehensions about the nickel ore’s loading and transportation from Indonesia and the Philippines during the 88th session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) from 24 November to 3 December 2010. Intercargo intervened, highlighting the grave perils of transporting liquefiable cargoes like nickel ore. They further lamented the undue pressures placed upon some charterers and masters to acquiesce to shippers’ declarations without independent verifications. The Marshall Islands endorsed Intercargo’s sentiments, and the Indian delegation elucidated the measures India was implementing to bolster the safe transport of iron ore fines cargoes.

Delving deeper into the concerns surrounding the loading and transportation of Nickel Ore:

  1. A majority of mines are ensconced in far-flung regions, resulting in rudimentary or non-existent loading facilities and techniques. The cargo is often left unsheltered on shores, rendering it vulnerable to the whims of the weather.
  2. Conventionally, nickel ore was shipped during the arid seasons from February to June. However, the once-clear demarcation between wet and dry seasons has blurred in recent times, with torrential rains infiltrating the traditionally dry months. This disrupts the natural drying process of the stockpiles.
  3. The isolation of these mines presents formidable challenges for independent vessel-appointed surveyors to acquire cargo samples.
  4. A dearth of independent laboratories in Indonesia and the Philippines raises eyebrows. While mines possess their laboratories, the adequacy and adherence to the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code’s stringent procedures remain dubious.
  5. The diverse composition of nickel ore complicates the process of determining accurate TML and moisture content, particularly when the cargo isn’t homogenous.
  6. Nickel laterite’s elevated clay content renders the standard flow table testing method susceptible to subjectivity and questionable results.
  7. Loading vessels from barges or landing craft often takes place at anchor, with the stockpiled cargo potentially exposed to rain after sampling and during its journey from the mine to the shore. The stipulated seven-day window between moisture content testing and loading is frequently violated.
  8. Disturbingly, vessel-appointed surveyors, tasked with independent cargo testing, have reportedly faced undue pressures, and at times, direct threats from shippers to concur with mine-conducted tests.


International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code)

The Code, promulgated under SOLAS 1974 and its subsequent Protocols, delineates the globally endorsed stipulations for the prudent stowage and transportation of solid bulk cargoes. This encompasses cargoes with potential liquefaction, like nickel ore. Commodities not explicitly enumerated fall under the purview of Section 1.3. The enforcement of this Code became universally obligatory on 1 January 2011.

As per Regulation VI/2 of SOLAS 1974, it is incumbent upon the shipper to equip the master or his envoy with comprehensive data pertaining to the cargo well ahead of loading. This ensures that all requisite safety measures for apt stowage and carriage are executed.

Section 4 of the IMSBC Code elucidates the onus placed on shippers to disclose pertinent cargo details. Of paramount importance, for cargoes that may liquefy (termed Group A cargoes), are certificates validating the moisture levels at the time of shipment and the Transportable Moisture Limit (TML), which, as the Code defines, is 90% of the Flow Moisture Point (FMP). The FMP necessitates laboratory analysis of cargo specimens. Cargoes surpassing the TML in moisture should not be sanctioned for loading, save for specially designed vessels. Notably, Nickel Ore lacks a distinct schedule within the Code but must be treated as a Group A cargo.

(A) Obligations of the Master: The captain or his delegate must meticulously oversee the loading process from inception to culmination. The initiation of loading should await the captain or the vessel’s representative acquiring the requisite written cargo details.

The captain retains the supreme authority, as decreed by SOLAS, to reject or halt the cargo loading if he perceives potential risks to the vessel’s safety.

(B) Obligations of the Shipper: (1) Cargo Data: It’s the shipper’s duty to furnish the captain or his delegate with comprehensive written information and documents as dictated by the Code, ensuring the cargo’s safe embarkation, transit, and unloading.

(2) Documentation: This should encompass: (a) A formal declaration of the cargo’s moisture content, accompanied by an affirmation of its average status. If multiple cargo spaces are to be loaded, distinct moisture declarations for each are mandatory unless uniformity is confirmed. (b) A certification of the cargo’s TML, alongside the FMP test results, compiled by a competent laboratory. The interval between the FMP test and loading should be a maximum of 6 months for standard commodities and not exceed 7 days between moisture content testing and loading. For irregular items like nickel ore, each shipment demands scrutiny. It’s prudent for captains to approach moisture certificates with skepticism, especially if they’re nearing the TML. Any significant precipitation between testing and loading mandates rechecks by the shipper to validate that moisture levels remain within the TML.

(3) Laboratories: Shippers must disclose the laboratory conducting the tests. However, results from mine-associated labs should be approached with caution, favoring independent examinations by ship-appointed experts.

(4) Stockpiles: Shippers are required to pinpoint and vouch for the stockpiles being loaded, ensuring the tested samples stem from these sources.

(5) Barges: If employed, barges transporting cargo to the vessel should be distinctly identifiable to the captain or designated surveyor.

Recommended Precautions for Shipping Nickel Ore:

  1. Loading should be deferred until the captain possesses all mandatory cargo data and documentation.
  2. Given recent incidents, it is suggested that shipowners collaborate with managers to evaluate potential risks prior to loading. If uncertainties arise regarding the cargo’s suitability, consider engaging a proficient surveyor before loading commences.
  3. Captains or surveyors presented with documents requesting affirmation of the cargo’s safety should abstain from endorsing it. Signing could jeopardize the shipowner’s rights in subsequent incidents.
  4. Report any commercial coercion or threats against the captain, surveyor, or experts to the Association for escalated action with relevant authorities.
  5. Prior to agreeing to transport nickel ore cargoes, shipowners should evaluate their contractual protections.
  6. For any contractual or safety concerns regarding nickel ore cargoes from Indonesia or the Philippines, shipowners should consult the P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club).

Potential ramifications for non-compliance with the Code include not only evident risks to life, environmental hazards, and property damages but also potential forfeiture of P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club) coverage. P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club) rules essentially exempt cover for liabilities emanating from perilous trades or voyages.


Dangers of Shipping Nickel Ore from Indonesia and the Philippines

The text you provided is about the risks of transporting nickel ore, which may liquefy if its moisture content exceeds the set limit. This liquefaction poses a significant risk to ships, leading to instability and even causing ships to capsize. Due to several tragic incidents in the past, there are ongoing discussions at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) about amending the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code to enhance the safety of nickel ore transport.

Specifically, concerns about nickel ore shipments from Indonesia were raised, prompting a meeting between industry representatives and the Indonesian Administration. They discussed the need for more reliable testing and accurate cargo certification.

Due to the ongoing risks, shipowners who are considering transporting nickel ore from Indonesia and the Philippines are being advised to take precautionary measures and adhere to certain recommendations.

There’s also a new requirement. If shipowners are planning to ship nickel ore from these countries, they must notify the “Managers” (possibly a governing body or organization overseeing the shipments) in advance and provide specifics about the ship, its schedule, and details about the charterer and shipper.

The purpose of this notification:

  1. To equip the managers with information to help reduce risks. For example, the managers might assign a local surveyor to assist the ship’s captain.
  2. If the ship’s captain has any doubts about the cargo’s safety, they should halt loading and immediately contact the managers. If they proceed with loading unsafe cargo, they might face issues later, such as difficulty in unloading the cargo or running afoul of local regulations.

Furthermore, by collecting data from these mandatory notifications, the managers aim to identify problematic areas, ports, or shippers, especially those that provide inaccurate cargo information.

Shipowners are warned that failing to notify the managers when transporting nickel ore from Indonesia or the Philippines might result in a loss of insurance or P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club) coverage.

In summary, the essence of this document is to raise awareness about the dangers of transporting nickel ore, ensuring compliance with the IMSBC Code, understanding the implications for insurance coverage, and emphasizing the importance of notifying the managers to mitigate associated risks.


Nickel Ore Shipping and Insurance 

Before committing to transport nickel ore from specific ports, it is imperative to consult on the stance under both the P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club) and Hull and Machinery policies. It is highly advised for any shipowner, when presented with such a request, to liaise with P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club) regarding either their P&I Coverage or their hull and machinery insurance, or both if both policies are affiliated with P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club), to gain insights on the standing under the pertinent insurance agreements if one opts to accept the proposed shipment.

While each scenario will be evaluated based on its intrinsic value, a few overarching observations warrant mention. Foremost, it’s of utmost importance for a shipowner to meticulously discern and relay to the insurers the essence and attributes of the cargo their vessel is slated to convey. P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club) Rules for Ships addresses circumstances where the inherent risk undergoes modifications. A congruent stipulation pertaining to hull and machinery insurance can be discerned in sections 3-8 to 3-13 of the Norwegian Marine Insurance Plan. There exists the possibility for a ship to be propositioned to take on cargo with traits that might either be misrepresented by the consignors or remain elusive even after purported tests. Under such eventualities, P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club) may likely opine that the peril undertaken by an owner who still consents to such a consignment has shifted.

P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club) Rules, which touches upon illicit trades, might hold pertinence, especially when the transportation of mischaracterized nickel ore can be construed as an “illicit, perilous, or overly treacherous trade or expedition”. Moreover, even though it isn’t explicitly enshrined in many P&I Club (Protection and Indemnity Club) Rules, a stipulation mandates that any hazardous consignment must adhere strictly to the IMO Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (the BC Code). Analogously, the BC Code might be recognized as a safety edict vis-à-vis hull and machinery policies, wherein any violation of the Code could impinge on the coverage. Refer, for instance, to sections 3-22 and 3-25 of the Norwegian Marine Insurance Plan. The scenarios elucidated by Brookes Bell lucidly depict that the subpar or imprecise assessments conducted by the consignors, coupled with their ensuing incapacity to precisely enumerate the cargo’s attributes as mandated by the BC Code, insinuate that such stipulations might invariably remain unfulfilled.


BIMCO Charterparty Clause for Solid Bulk Cargoes that may Liquefy

BIMCO, in collaboration with the International Group of P&I Clubs, has meticulously crafted a novel industry charterparty clause pertaining to solid bulk cargoes with a potential to liquefy. This eloquently designed clause mandates charterers to furnish owners with documented assurance from shippers, confirming that the cargo’s moisture content remains beneath the Transportable Moisture Limit (TML). Moreover, it grants owners the prerogative to procure their own cargo samples before loading, empowering the master to decline the cargo or, if already boarded, to abstain from setting sail. It is imperative for shipowners to embed this clause within time charterparties, accommodating the transit of such cargoes, as well as in voyage charterparties specifically tailored for these cargoes. The subsequent clause, presented herein, supersedes the previous one.

We kindly suggest that you visit the web page of BIMCO (Baltic and International Maritime Council) to obtain new BIMCO Charterparty Clause for Solid Bulk Cargoes that may Liquefy and documents.