The safe carriage of cargoes is the cornerstone of the bulk carrier industry and yet not all stakeholders are fulfilling their obligations to ensure that Masters and crews are provided with the necessary information to enable cargoes to be shipped safely.
The International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code, stipulating the carriage requirements for cargoes, clearly lays out the responsibilities of the various stakeholders in the distribution chain, including the specific information about the cargo that should be provided to the Master.
It is INTERCARGO’s firm belief that some shippers/receivers continue to, either deliberately or due to lack of competence, mis-declare cargoes with tragic consequences INTERCARGO is particularly concerned with Group A cargoes, these being cargoes that may undergo a moisture related cargo failure mechanism such as liquefaction and dynamic separation. Our recent Bulk Carrier Casualty Report highlights the impact that liquefaction has on bulk carrier losses and seafarer deaths. A general cargo vessel, loaded with ball clay from Lamut, Malaysia, was lost in December 2021 when its cargo liquified while on passage. Additionally, there have been cases of vessels loaded in SE Asia with cargoes declared as “ball clay” or “clay” where the cargo has undergone liquefaction, or another moisture related failure mechanism such as dynamic separation. Within the IMSBC Code clay is designated a Group C cargo (cargoes that don’t liquefy). However as the incidents above illustrate, the importance of providing the Master correct information cannot be over-stressed.
INTERCARGO takes an active role at the IMO and other fora to highlight the dangers of liquefaction and to promote the safe carriage of cargoes. To assist the Association’s work, INTERCARGO’s Cargo Panel considers various cargo related matters including liquefaction and advises the Technical Committee accordingly. Members who wish to participate in this group should contact the Secretariat.
INTERCARGO continues to have concerns regarding the misdeclaration of cargo by shippers/receivers – the catastrophic consequences of which are well documented. In addition, INTERCARGO is also troubled by the lack of public availability of accident investigation reports.
The International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code, stipulating the carriage requirements for cargoes, clearly lays out the responsibilities of the various stakeholders in the distribution chain, including the specific information about the cargo that should be provided to the Master. With this information the Master is able to make informed decisions on the safe carriage of the cargo which in turn enables the safety of the crew and the vessel. Unfortunately, all too often, cases of cargo mis-declaration (including falsification of laboratory reports) or suspicion of mis-declaration are being reported through official or unofficial channels, this is particularly true of Group A cargoes.
Group A cargoes are those cargoes that may undergo a moisture related cargo failure mechanism such as liquefaction and dynamic separation. In August 2019 liquefaction was the suspected cause for the loss of the Nur Allya, laden with nickel ore. In August 2020, the bulk carrier Zhong Chang He Sheng, also laden with nickel ore, reported liquefaction of its cargo and issued a distress signal due to a risk of capsizing. More recently the general cargo ship Xin Hong issued a distress signal and reported cargo shift and developing list, it was reported that the vessel was carrying clay, a cargo deemed not to liquefy.
Learning lessons from incidents and sharing of experience have proven to be effective approaches to raise safety awareness and to deepen the understanding and knowledge of the existing rules, regulations and skills.
Between 2011 and the end of Jan 2021, only 20 of the 34 reported bulk carrier losses have had investigation reports made available on IMO’s GISIS database, representing 58.8% of the total. Although the average time from incident to a report becoming available has been 16 months for these investigations, in some cases reports from up to 10 years ago are still not available. It is clear that there is a need for improvements in Flag State reporting.