A Trinidadian company has been trying to ship HBI Fines. now known as DRI C, without complying with the mandatory requirements of the IMSBC Code warns the London P&I Club in its latest edition of it StopLoss bulletin.
Says the club: “Long-standing concerns about the carriage of Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) increased significantly after casualties on the Marshall Islands flagged Ythan in 2004. A chemical reaction between the DRI C cargo and water contained therein resulted in the production of hydrogen, which accumulated under the hatch covers before igniting and exploding. Industry concerns led to the introduction of specific provisions for the carriage of DRI C in the IMSBC Code.
“The Club’s Circular dated 29 April 2010 concerning DRI emphasised that such cargoes should have a maximum moisture content of 0.3% and be carried under an inert gas blanket. Also, ships carrying DRIshould be capable of maintaining oxygen levels of below 5% throughout the voyage.
“Although the Hot Briquetted Iron Association (HBIA, now part of the International Iron Metallics Association) has lobbied for changes to the Code to allow certain grades of DRI C (principally those shipped from Venezuela and Trinidad) to be carried with significantly higher moisture contents and/or without the need to deploy inert gas, all such proposals have been rejected by the IMO.
Section 1.5 of the IMSBC Code contemplates the possibility of alternative carriage arrangements, relevantly stating as follows: “Where this Code requires that a particular provision for the transport of solid bulk cargoes shall be complied with, a competent authority or competent authorities (port State of departure, portState of arrival or flag State) may authorize any other provision by exemption if satisfied that such provision is at least as effective and safe as that required by this Code.”
“In reliance on this Section, the shipper referred to above offered an exemption certificate from the competent authority in Trinidad for the carriage of DRI C with moisture content above 0.3% and suggested that the cargo could be carried safely if the holds were mechanically ventilated to prevent hydrogen building up. The Club doubts whether mechanical ventilation can ever be regarded as being “at least as effective and safe” as the use of an inert gas blanket. Further, as most bulk carriers likely to carry DRI will have only “natural” ventilation, hold fans would have to be fitted at the load port.
The Club has seen documents suggesting that, on at least one occasion, the fans proposed were not certified “explosion proof”, meaning that they had not been specifically designed for use in flammable atmospheres and could be a possible source of ignition. Also, the fans appeared to be too small and badly sited, limiting their ability to prevent the accumulation inside the hatch coaming of any hydrogen given off by the cargo”.