Updated 21 April 2017
Liquefaction of fine particle cargoes, resulting in cargo shift and loss of stability, has caused the loss of many lives in numerous marine casualties over the decades and continues to be a hot topic for P&I Clubs and their Members. Cargoes at risk of liquefaction are cargoes containing at least some fine particles and some moisture, although they need not be visibly wet in appearance.
The most widely-known cargoes of this type are mineral concentrates, although many other cargoes can also liquefy, such as fluorspar, certain grades of coal, pyrites, millscale, sinter/pellet feed, etc. Of particular concern is the large number of cargoes of nickel ore loaded in Indonesia and the Philippines in respect of which there are doubts as to the accuracy of the shippers' declarations and certificates.
Although they often look dry in appearance at the time of loading, these cargoes contain moisture in the spaces between the particles. During ocean transport, cargoes are exposed to agitation in the form of engine vibrations, ship's motions and wave impact, resulting in compaction of the cargo. The effect of this process can be a transition from a solid state to a viscous fluid state in which all or part of the cargo can flatten to form a fluid surface.
Despite the fact that the IMSBC Code prescribes the testing and certification requirements designed to ensure that cargoes are loaded only if the moisture content is sufficiently low to avoid liquefaction occurring during the voyage, inaccurate declarations and certificates from shippers still appear to be at the heart of the problem.
Loss Prevention Circulars on Cargo Liquefaction
Gard News Articles on Cargo Liquefaction
Other Gard Material on Cargo Liquefaction
Gard Alert: Surigao, Philippines – wet nickel ore cargoes (7 October 2016)
Other Featured Resources
Report from Fairplay magazine based on Gard's Loss Prevention / Risk Assessment advice regarding liquefaction.
The IMO is the United Nations' specialised agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
The IMO's International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code) replaces the Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC Code) and became mandatory on 1 January 2011 under the provisions of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). The IMSBC Code facilitates the safe stowage and shipment of solid bulk cargoes by providing information on the dangers associated with the shipment of certain types of solid bulk cargoes and instructions on the procedures to be adopted when the shipment of solid bulk cargoes is contemplated.
The IMO sub-committees on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC) deals with cargo related issues and proposes amendments to the IMSBC Code including evaluation of properties of solid bulk cargoes. For an overview of the work ongoing within this sub-committee, click here.
MSC.1/Circ.1452 - Early implementation of the amendments (02-13) to the IMSBC Code
MSC.1/Circ.1453 - Guidelines for the submission of information and completion of the format for the properties of cargoes not listed in the IMSBC Code and their condition of carriage
MSC.1/Circ.1454 - Guidelines for developing and approving procedures for sampling, testing and controlling the moisture content for solid bulk cargoes which may liquefy
DSC.1&/Circ.71 - Early implementation of draft amendments to the IMSBC Code related to the carriage and testing of iron ore fines (part of amendment 03-15)
All relevant parties concerned are urged to implement the draft amendments as an interim measures, on a voluntary basis, prior to the expected entry-into-force dates.
Intercargo's main role is to work with its members, regulators and other shipping associations to ensure that shipping operates safely, efficiently, environmentally and profitably. To do this, they actively participate in the development of global legislation through the International Maritime Organization and other similar bodies. Intercargo's members operate predominantly bulk carriers in the international dry bulk trades, such as coal, grain, iron ore and other bulk commodities. All issues related to "Cargoes" are found under Industry Issues on their website and a "Guide for the Safe Loading of Nickel Ore"was published in February 2012. (Membership required for full access to available information).
BIMCO's main objective is to protect its global membership through the provision of quality information and advice, while promoting fair business practices, and facilitating harmonisation and standardisation of commercial shipping practices and contracts. A number of featured articles and cargo alerts related to the carriage of solid dry cargoes in bulk, and liquefaction issues in particular, are available. A special service concerning cargoes, containing a "Solid Cargo Database", is included. (Membership required for full access to available information).
IGP&I consist of thirteen principal underwriting member clubs; between them they provide liability cover (protection and indemnity) for approximately 90% of the world's ocean-going tonnage. IGP&I provide a useful forum for sharing information on matters of concern to clubs and their members. These include general issues such as oil pollution and personal injury as well as current issues such as maritime security, places of refuge for ships in distress, the carriage of particular cargoes etc.