Last December’s loss of the supramax bulk carrier Vinalines Queen and 22 of her 23 crew off Northern Luzon in the Philippines is a “a stark reminder of the continuing dangers associated with the carriage of nickel ore” says the London P&I Club, which covered the ship.
On 10 September 2009 another of same company’s vessels, Vinalines Mighty, was forced to return to return to the port of Paradip, India, after loading iron ore fines at the port and developing a list while underway.
Prior to the casualty, last contact with the vessel was whilst on a voyage from Indonesia to China with 54,000 tonnes of ron ore fines.
At 0548 on the morning of 25 December 2011 the master of Vinalines Queen reported a 20 degree list to port with heavy winds and diverted to the Philippines. An hour later the list had reduced to 18 degrees and she was reported to be running to shore. The master had ordered the crew to the main deck with lifejackets and lifeboats lowered.
No more was heard from her after 0700. Oil slicks were seen later but the vessel was not found.
The sole survivor, Dau Ngoc Hung, was recovered five days later by the UK-flagged London Courage.
Press reports focussed on the possibility that the sinking may be attributable to a loss of stability caused by liquefaction of the cargo.
Says the London Club: “The loss of the Vinalines Queen follows the sinkings of 3 vessels at the end of 2010 and other reported incidents of vessels suffering a loss of stability when loaded with nickel ore shipped from ports in Indonesia and the Philippines. The latest casualty serves as a stark reminder of the continuing dangers associated with the carriage of nickel ore, as highlighted in issues 42 (click here), 46 (click here) and 56 (click here) of the London P&I Club’s Stoploss Bulletin.
The club has also drawn attention to its circular dated 31 January 2011 (click here) addressing the safe carriage of nickel ore and in particular, the recommended precautions.
As a consequence of this latest tragedy, an elevated sense of concern is being expressed throughout the maritime community with respect to the safety of this cargo.