Identifying Risk On Transporting Nickel Ore Cargo

by Aug 4, 2023Binoculars, Bulletin0 comments

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Photo source: Antam

It is common knowledge that sea transport has become a major choice for transporting goods. In 2022, ships successfully delivered over 80% of global trade goods (UNCTAD, 2023), highlighting their significant role as the backbone of international trade.

Not limited to international waters, Indonesia has seen an increasing demand for local trading vessels due to Joko Widodo’s regime’s emphasis on processing raw materials within the country’s downstream industry. Consequently, there has been a significant rise in demand for Tug and Barge, Bulk Carriers, and General Cargo ships for the transshipment of raw materials.

However, with every opportunity, there comes inherent risk. On 21st August 2019, a tragic incident occurred on MV. Nur Allya, carrying 51,500 Mt of Nickel Ore, which capsized and sank along with its 25 crew members during its voyage from Weda, North Maluku to Morosi, South East Sulawesi.

Based on the investigation results from the Indonesian National Transport Safety Committee (NTSC), it was determined that the MV. Nur Allya capsized and sank due to the liquefaction of the Nickel Ore cargo inside its cargo hold. This led to a free surface effect, causing the vessel to suddenly capsize.

To prevent such unfortunate incidents from occurring in the future and to avoid further loss of life and cargo, a collaborative effort is required among cargo owners, Charterers, Shipowners/Managers, and other relevant parties to identify the risks associated with transporting nickel ore cargo. Therefore, we have developed a set of steps to help in the risk identification process for transporting nickel ore cargo, as outlined below:

A. Understanding MC and TML

Unlike container cargo, raw materials such as nickel ore have distinct characteristics. Nickel ore falls under group A in the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargo (IMSBC) Code and comes in various types with variable particle size and moisture content, including some with clay-like ores. The bulk density of nickel ore ranges from 1,400 kg/m3 to 1,800 kg/m3.

To comply with the IMSBC Code, the Master must be presented with a certificate of moisture content (MC), indicating the current moisture content within seven days of testing and loading. Additionally, a transportable moisture limit (TML) certificate, determined no more than six months before the loading date, is necessary to ascertain whether the cargo can be safely transported without exceeding 90% of the flow moisture point.

The presence of both TML and MC certificates, along with laboratory test results, is crucial and must be provided by the Shipper before the loading operation. If the cargo exceeds its flow moisture point and enters a fluid state, it may become susceptible to liquefaction, leading to a loss of the ship’s positive stability due to a reduction in metacentric height (GM) and potentially resulting in sudden capsizing.

Pro Tip: The Can Test is a precautionary measure to be conducted before loading potential liquefaction cargo. Follow these steps for the test: Step 1. Take a small cylindrical can and fill it halfway with a sample of the cargo, Step 2. Strike the can against a hard surface, like a sturdy table, from a height of about 20cm, Step 3. Repeat the action at least 25 times with one or two-second intervals between strikes, Step 4. During the test, observe the surface of the cargo for any signs of moisture or fluid-like behavior. Please remember that the Can Test is not an acceptance test to confirm the safety of the cargo. It serves as a warning to the Master, indicating that the cargo may be above its flow moisture point, and further laboratory testing is necessary to ensure safe transportation.

B. Identifying the Documents and Cargo Visual Appereance

Having recognized the critical importance of MC and TML values, we thoroughly verify whether they adhere to IMSBC requirements. Any excess in MC and TML values beyond the prescribed limits results in the rejection of the cargo.

However, despite the provisions in the IMSBC, concerns arise regarding the reliability of the documents. Misinformation may arise due to incompetent laboratory procedures or changes in characteristics since the certificate issuance date, among other factors. To mitigate such risks, we carefully observe the cargo’s visual appearance. Any indication of wetness raises awareness of potential cargo liquefaction. Yet, it’s worth noting that these signs may not be evident initially, as Nickel ore often appears dry. Still, we can take preventive action by performing Can Tests to ensure moisture limits remain within IMSBC recommendations.

C. Warehouse and The Weather

Understanding the vulnerability of nickel ore cargo to weather conditions, we must diligently examine the weather records in the vicinity of the warehouse, stockpile, and port. In the event of rain at the open stockpile of the nickel cargo, we must remain vigilant about the potential increase in the cargo’s moisture content (MC) value. Being attentive to such weather-related factors is crucial in ensuring the safe transportation of the cargo and preventing any adverse consequences that could arise from elevated MC levels.

D. In Doubt?

If you find that general guidance is insufficient or if the ship’s crew requires specific information about a particular port and storage area, seeking the assistance of a competent surveyor is highly recommended. The surveyor will conduct thorough inspections of the warehouse, stockpile, and loading operation of the nickel ore. Additionally, the surveyor can facilitate laboratory tests if needed, providing you with detailed and localized information crucial for safe cargo handling and transportation. Relying on a competent surveyor ensures a comprehensive and reliable assessment of the conditions, enhancing the safety and efficiency of the entire cargo operation.

Should you have a further inquiries related to the nickle ore cargo or a surveyor request don’t hesitate to hit up

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