Seaborne sugar comes mainly from the raw products of sugar cane grown in tropical climes, shipped usually in bulk but sometimes in bags; from bagged, refined (termed white) sugar; and, occasionally from either raw sugar obtained from the sugar beet plant grown in cooler regions, or in the form of sugar beet pulp pellets carried normally in bulk. The trade is erratic and widespread.
Principal exporters of raw sugar include Brazil and the Caribbean Countries, The Philippines, Mauritius and Reunion, East Africa, Australia, and Fiji. Importers are worldwide. Facilities at the discharging end permit, the cargo will normally be carried in bulk, although certain countries lack either shoreside equipment and/or the infrastructure to receive sugar in this manner, and can handle only raw sugar in bags. The carriage of white, refined sugar in bulk is rare because of the likelihood of contamination, and perhaps of infestation. Consequently, nearly all such shipments are in bagged form in 50 kgs units, which has been found a convenient handling size.
Bulk raw sugar is nowadays usually loaded mechanically via a moveable spout or a fixed spout with spreaders, which as for loading grain, greatly facilitates the trimming of cargo. The holds into which it is loaded should be clean, dry, and rust-free, odorless, (sugar can easily taint), and uninfested by insects. When at sea, ventilation should be restricted as excess air causes sugar to soften. The shortage of ventilation however, may create the build-up of carbon dioxide gas, so entry to cargo spaces should be exercised with care. Too much heat should be avoided, as if overheated, sugar will harden; but too cold and the sugar content diminishes. Obviously, ships’ masters will need to exercise skill if the cargo is to arrive in good condition.
Unloading of raw sugar is normally effected by grabs. Thus the carrying vessel must be suitable for grab-discharge, most sugar charter-parties/contracts being very explicit on a ship’s suitability to carry sugar in bulk, the USA Bulk Sugar C/P stating, for example:
- Cargo shall be stowed only in areas in which grabs, drags and mobile equipment can operate freely. Sugar shall not be stowed in the lower holds of the forward and after hatches unless the recesses at the extremities of those holds are completely blocked off to full height by suitable, strong, and sugar-tight bulkheads. If cargo is stowed in the tween deck above a lower hold contain- no sugar. the hatch opening shall be securely and completely closed and covered with a one-quarter inch steel plate welded to the deck, or with lumber of sufficient thickness and strength, to form an even working surface, sugar-tight and sufficiently strong to support cargo and to resist damage by bulldozers, marine leg elevators and all other equipment used in discharge.
- Cargo shall be distributed among hatches so that two discharging rigs can operate simultaneously at all times during discharge. If loading is performed by bleeding bags into the hold the number of hatches used shall be such as to permit the simultaneous working of not less than four stevedoring gangs. If loading is performed by mechanical means at a bulk sugar terminal the number of hatches available shall not be less than two. If the required number of hatches are not available laytime shall be adjusted in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 17 hereof.
- No sugar shall be stowed in areas such as deep tanks, refrigerator hatches, or other unusual places that are inaccessible to Receiver’s discharging equipment.
- Holds shall be sealed and not ventilated during transit unless in the opinion of the Master
compliance with this provision endangers the safety of the Vessel.
The loading of bulk raw sugar was once a slow operation as it may still be at non-mechanical ports, intaken tonnages of around 500 to 1,000 tonnes per day being an average. Where mechanical equipment is now fitted however, it is still traditional to fix the loading rate at previous prevailing levels, even though the capacity is so much faster. Consequently this may give rise to large sums of despatch money payable to shippers/charterers. The overall saving in loading days and the subsequent payment of despatch money dramatically alters voyage estimates based on full laytime being used for loading and must be taken into consideration when fixing such business, often the despatch money rate at the loading port being kept artificially low – perhaps lower than at the discharging end. Unlike grain Charter Parties, those specialized forms dealing with bulk sugar reflect both loading and discharging areas, with one general-purpose form, prominent among these being:
- General Sugar Charter Party: Sugar C/P 1969 – Revised 1977
- Sugar To USA: Bulk Sugar Charter Party USA – 1962 – Revised 1968
- Sugar From Australia: Australia Sugar Charter Party 1957
- Sugar From Fiji: Fiji Sugar Charter Party 1977
- Sugar From Mauritius: Mauritius Bulk Sugar Charter Party – MSS FORM
- Sugar From Cuba: Cuba Sugar Charter Party 1973
- Bulk Sugar Stowage Factor 40/43
- Bagged Sugar Stowage Factor 48/53
- Baled Beet Pulp Pellets 55/65