“Just say ‘no’” says the North of England P&I Club apparently in response to the sinking of the China-bound general cargo ship Asian Forest off the Indian coast on 17 July. It is suspected that her foundering, without loss of life, was due to the liquefaction of her cargo of iron ore fines, already rejected by another vessel.
Masters should be aware that the chances of higher moisture content, which can lead to liquefaction, are increased at the time of the heavy rains of the South West Monsoon because iron ore fines New Mangalore and the West Coast of India are stockpiled in the open for shipping.
They should also be aware, sys NEPIA: “It has been reported that often the moisture content stated on the certificate given by shippers bears no resemblance to the moisture content of the cargo at loading. Members fixed to load such cargoes in South West India should exercise extreme caution. Members may wish to engage the services of suitable surveyor to assist the Master in determining the suitability of the cargo to be loaded.”
Iron ore is listed in the Code of Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes, BC Code, as a Group C cargo and as such is not considered likely to liquefy but should be trimmed to reduce the likelihood of shifting. Iron ore concentrates containing a proportion of small particles are known to liquefy and are therefore listed as Group A cargo. All of these cargoes require to be documented in accordance with the requirements of SOLAS chapter VI regulation 2 – Cargo Information. This requires the following details be provided by the shipper prior to loading;
- stowage factor
- trimming procedures
- likelihood of shifting, including angle of repose and any other special properties
Additional information required for cargoes that may liquefy includes a certificate stipulating;
- the moisture content and
- the transportable moisture limit (TML).
A cargo with a moisture content exceeding the TML is more likely to shift as a result of liquefaction and should therefore not be loaded unless the vessel is specifically designed for this purpose. Both values must be provided on the certificate. Significantly, this additional information is not restricted to concentrate cargoes alone and should also be provided for “other cargoes that may liquefy” described as those with ‘a sufficient proportion of small particles and a certain amount of moisture’. This includes some cargoes of iron ore fines.
“Whenever masters come under pressure from shippers or charterers during loading of bulk cargoes, they should remember that SOLAS has been developed to define their rights and obligations as well as the rights and obligations of shippers and charterers,” says NEPIA. “Masters are obliged by their flag states to comply with SOLAS requirements and they have every right to refuse to breach these.”