Carriage of bulk cargoes subject to liquefaction
The Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee, (GSCC) a London based association, founded in 1935, representing Greek shipping offices, located in the United Kingdom, is profoundly shocked and dismayed at the disastrous loss of life resulting from the recent capsizing and sinking of the Bahamas registered, 56, 000 tdw bulk carrier, “Bulk Jupiter.” This vessel had loaded a cargo of 46, 400 tons of bauxite, said to have been classified as a Group C cargo under the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code, (that is, a cargo not prone to liquefaction) at Kuantan, Malaysia and whilst enroute to its discharge port, on 2nd January, 2015, the vessel reportedly developed a sudden heavy list to starboard and very quickly capsized and sank. Only one of the vessel’s nineteen crew members survived the sinking. The remaining eighteen crew members perished, with only two bodies, so far having been recovered from the sea.
As is to be expected, the incident is to be investigated by the vessel’s flag state administration, the Bahamas Maritime Authority, and the vessel’s owners, their Hull & Machinery insurers and their P&I club have commissioned external experts to investigate the cargo properties and the corresponding liquefaction risk, in relation to the cargo manifest.
Whilst the GSCC does not wish to anticipate or pre-judge the findings of these investigations, it can only endorse the recent recommendation of the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (Intercargo) which urges shipowners, operators and charterers to exercise extreme care when dealing with any cargo that has the potential to liquefy. Intercargo stresses, furthermore, that in the event of any doubt, whatsoever, about the authenticity or accuracy of the cargo declaration document, independent tests should be carried out to check and report actual cargo condition prior to loading.
It is also stressed that the IMSBC Code, which, in its current amended form, became mandatory to all contracting states as from 1st January, 2015, requires the shipper to provide a certificate, signed by an entity recognised by the competent port state authority at the port of loading, clearly stating the Transportable Moisture Limit (TML) of the cargo. Furthermore a failure to follow the requirements of the IMSBC Code could render the owner uninsured for losses resulting from such failure.
In the circumstances, the GSCC considers it astounding that several charterers engaged in the maritime transport of such cargoes refuse to allow independent pre-loading testing of the intended cargo and resist the provision of the IMSBC Code mandated TML certificates. In view of the inherent serious risk to human life, the GSCC considers such practices to be deplorable, outrageous and totally unacceptable.
Accordingly, the GSCC urges all stakeholders, including, shipowners, operators, charterers and port state administrations to adhere to best practice, as set forth in the IMSBC Code, when dealing with bulk cargoes subject to liquefaction.
Too many seafarers’ lives have been lost as a result of instability caused by bulk cargo liquefaction. The shipping industry and its regulatory body, the International Maritime Organization, know very well what needs to be done to stop these tragic occurrences. In addition to the many lives already lost, while the issue continues to be debated, without decisive action by the industry, more lives continue to be put at risk on a daily basis. Accordingly, the GSCC strongly believes that it is high time that the dangerous practice of allowing ships to sail with bulk cargoes having excessive moisture content be stopped once and for all.