As the Indian monsoon season starts, the shipping industry once again faces the practical
challenges associated with the export of iron ore fines from Indian ports, says the London P&I Club in its latest Stoploss Bulletin. New guidelines from the Indian government, however, may take the pressure off of shippers to provide certification that a cargo is safe.
Liquefaction of iron ore fines was implicated in the sinking of MV Black Rose in September 2009 with the death of the ship’s chief engineer as he desperately tried to save the vessel. MV Asian Forest, which sank in July 2009 off Mangalore and remains off the Indian coast, was another victim of the same phenomenon.
Says Stoploss Bulletin: “Liquefaction can occur if cargo is loaded with a moisture content which exceeds the transportable moisture limit (TML) and flow moisture point (FMP). In India, this is a particular problem as cargoes are often exposed to monsoon rain en route to load ports and stored in open stockpiles. Consequently, cargoes can have a moisture content which is dangerously high”.
India’s Ministry of Shipping recently issued new guidelines expanding the existing requirement under SOLAS and the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code for shippers to certify the actual moisture content, TML and FMP . However, they also state that moisture content, TML and FMP should be “independently assessed by a competent organisation appointed by the owner/charterer under supervision of the P&I Club of the ship” and that after the “data obtained by the independent sampling and assessment organisation has been accepted by the Ship’s P&I Club the information needs to be submitted to the surveyor of the
Mercantile Marine Department (MMD).”
The worry now is that shippers’ responsibilities for presenting a safe cargo may be eroded under these new guidelines.
Warns the London Club: “In the meantime, members are reminded of the importance of appointing local surveyors to check the condition of cargo as a precautionary step and to ensure that they are instructed not to share their results with any third parties without speaking to the Club first”.