Urea

In addition to sources of natural fertilisers, many nations engage in the profitable business of manufacturing fertiliser compounds, especially urea, ammonium phosphate and nitro phosphatic kompound (NPK). Such cargoes will frequently be found quoted from origins in the EEC (e.g. ex Antwerp, Rotterdam and Hamburg); from Poland (Gdynia/Gdansk), and from Romania (Constanza), whilst many of the oil-producing nations located in the Mediterranean, Arabian gulf, and South East Asia, and the USSR use their facilities to manufacture exportable urea as a by-product from oil refining. All these fertilisers, whether natural or manufactured, need care in handling, although most can be carried in safety whether bagged or in bulk, giving rise to the oft-encountered expression “BHF” – “bulk harmless fertilisers“. Part of the reassurance of the word ‘harmless’ dates back to the early days of transporting ammonium nitrate in bulk before such processes as ‘calcining’ this material had been perfected. Without this treatment, a large quantity of ammonium nitrate in bulk can, under certain conditions, become spontaneously explosive which was tragically proved when a US Gulf port was almost destroyed many years ago. This problem is now so well understood that very many fertilisers are completely ‘harmless’ from the dangerous cargo point of view. However, the IMDG code should always be referred to especially if more than one type is to be loaded because some otherwise harmless fertilisers are incompatible one with another. Of course, ship owners need to be aware of the non-dangerous harm that certain fertilisers can do. Some can have a damaging effect on the paintwork in the holds whilst others can cause severe corrosion to unprotected steel. As may seem obvious, steel products emanate mainly from the major industrialised nations both for cross-trading to others and for the developing nations. However, there is a major trade around semi-processed materials such as pig-iron, concentrates, direct-reduced iron, etc. wherein developing nations (e.g. Brazil, Chile and Peru) have a role to play. From the other end of manufacturing processes come scrap metals which also form an important seaborne commodity, the scrap being recycled in the steel industry and form relatively inexpensive ready material around which some steel industries have been developed.