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Saturday, 13 November 2010

Bulk Iron Ore Fines Loading in India, by Capt. T. Rajkumar, Master Mariner.

(Kind courtesy Capt. T. Rajkumar)

TOPIC: Bulk Iron Ore Fines Loading in India.
Course objectives – Safety & prevention of accidents being the main criteria. 
Ref  IMO Bulk Code.
·        Review situation in India.
·        Application of the BC Code (IMO)
Introducing the topic---
·         In the year, 2002 Iron  Ore “Fines” was sought for by Buyers abroad --to replace “Lumps” and the GOI had approved. This was a major change in iron ore cargo specs from the earlier Lumps to Ore Fines in Exports. Ore Lumps of larger size does not usually become a slurry if wet as the water drains out.
·         With Ore Prices just soaring and China Buying  the all and sundry in the private sector came into the fray.... to Mine & Sell & Ship Out.
·         Exports hit an an all time high but, Loading norms of the IMO- BC Code was not understood or heeded and the trade took many aspects for granted.
·         Also many ports that used to close in Monsoon season just continued all time.
·         With increasing demand for steel, the export of Bulk Ore Fines steadily increased since 2002.  With boom time, many older ships were chartered at lowest freights and soon shoddy operations took its toll. This eventually gave rise to  numerous Bulk Carrier casualties and especially the case of  m.v. Asian Forest, sunk outside at Mangalore and m.v. Black Rose sunk off Paradip drew attention. Refer List of Casualties on last page. This finally got  the attention of the Media- !! -then the trade and industry took notice..
We need to now ask a few queries.
·         After the 12 nos. casualties  reported  and follow instructions  by the  DG, MS Notice,  IMO 2009 Revised, P&I  Club Advice to members & Reports from the Shipp Enquiry Committee--                  What is the position today ?
·         The  awareness and application of the IMO code on loading norms , much less it’s usage is still very poor. The scene all over India is just one of total disregard with compartmentalised working.
·         Shippers need to address the instructions listed in IMO BC Code.
Q: Who will control this ?
·         Refer current practices in the Iron Ore trade and -it is a shocker. Ore Fines is exported all the year round and no stoppage in Monsoon season.
·         Ore is mined and crushed at Mines from Bihar to Jharkhand/AP-Karnataka  and transported in open trucks /rakes to shipment ports. During the monsoon rains the ore piles remain  in the open yards and the moisture content exceeds limits . With heavy rains, pools of stagnant water are seen water but many Shippers wish to continue  loaded Wet Ore.
·         Refer current practices in the Iron Ore trade and Media Reports-it is a shocker. Fines is exported all the time and no stoppage in Monsoon season. Ore is mined and Crushed at Mines from Bihar /Jharkhand/AP-Karnataka  and then  transported in open trucks /rakes to shipment ports. During the monsoon rains they remain  in the open yards and the moisture content exceeds limits . With heavy rains, pools of stagnant water are seen water. This has been photographed and even reported with a caption "Ore in a lake of water!!
·         However despite all circulars and guidelines many Shippers wish to continue  loaded Wet Ore. How does the Ships Officer - Owners and relate with Shippers and Port Authority here on such matters .
·          If a Prudent Master stops loading-- will his vessel be shifted to Outer Roads. (It appears that Ports can be quite unreasonable to achieve a fast turnround).
·         In monsoon rains and cargo soaked on open stacks results in - “Ore Fines getting soaking wet. Thus M- TMT does increase beyond permissible limits  ...will turn into a Slurry and this is unsafe for loading for sea passage.       The Mangalore casualty was seen as a direct result of this as Reports will indicate.
·         The excuse given by Shippers and Assayers to the Shipping Enquiry Committee -Quote “Unable to assess M, FMP of large Bulk Quantity” unquote. This is quite an absurd statement.
·         Loading even in heavy Rains continues today despite various guidelines.
·         The problem really begins here.
·         Who will Monitor this?
·         What Loading supervision and control do we have ?
·         What is the role of Port Authority .
Addressing key factors:
What can ships personnel do ?
·         How is the   Ship’s Officer managing the loading ?
·     Does the ship’s officer  inspect cargo  stack on jetty and do the ‘Can Test’.
·         Does the Ship get a  correct   quality Certificate from the Shipper’s Assayer ?
·         P&I Intervention – What is the experience on this assistance on application of the BC Guidelines ?
LOOKING AT SOLUTIONS.-Start at Fixture time with Shippers and Load Port—seems like a good place to begin but this is entirely a Ship owners decision
·         Supervise Loading -don't leave to chance.
·         Be totally informed and communicate.
·         Have Sampling & Testing organized  standard, calibrated equipment please-
·         Trained and competent samplers & analysis.
·         Inform Pre-shipment  specs. to Owner & Master in advance by email.
1) The 2009 edition of the IMO Bulk Code is really  an excellent doc; Possibly the best edition seen till date and is most comprehensive.

The first 44 pages of instructions itself tells it all- .So also, DG circular on ore loading.
Q:  Have Shippers ever read this or much less used it. 

2) In all fairness, the problem is more in Monsoon conditions with soaking wet ores. Then we also see the lack of regard for Trimming & levelling in stow.. the Shipper is quite oblivious to all this and rests in his "Angle of Repose!! (Sorry about that dig, but it is a fact).

3) The situation in 2007 & the casualties was mainly with old ships and poor management in all aspects of PSI- Load -stow-trim  sail-  fast turnround go.. go--.
This problem mainly arose due a total disregard for the IMO- Bulk Code norms and too much of commercial pressures and this  is quite evident. No doubt 2007 was a bad year-see casualty statistics.

4) The Port Authority's role in this seems to be a limited one, despite what ever legal instruments may exist. The Major Ports Act itself is nearly a 'century old' and  Ports  only respond as Custodian or bailee of cargo etc-so no real proactive role is seen on Cargo Loading matters. The Ports main priority being the turnround and Qty-Output/ shipped mainly.

5) With so many new ports and "inexperienced” personnel, mostly untrained in BC Code the "awareness’ to BC code  is  a key to correcting the situation. Regrettably, we also have today much confusion caused by some dubious Operators  who have not read the directives on loading of Iron ore fines. Then some Operators inc Shippers just do not cooperate and disregard all risk control guidelines.. 

The paradox is whilst all loading directives and control is about due diligence being exercised in the interest of safety, the fact is that few shippers cooperate.

Finally, a Preshipment inspection procedure was laid out by end of 2009- and has slowly gained acceptance.i.e. even before loading commenced as the Port Rules do not permit  "Wet Ore" once loaded in holds to be discharged, resulting in an impasse. P&I support and loss prevention measures came to assist the ship master from the arrival of Cargo, with sampling and testing ( PSI ) to loading and final topping when sought by Owners.

IMO, BC Code 2009.
DG Shipping Circulars & MS Notice
P&I Club Circulars
Apart from the above, the National Shipping Committee also met. The GOI Circular from Delhi of May 28, 2010 "guideline" was issued.

Finally in 2010 we seem to have arrived at a reasonable consensus to Monitor the work with P&I support as follows:

Ship & cargo survey attendance to include:

1)  To inspect the cargo at shippers stock yard before arrival of the vessel and to carry out joint sampling with shippers representative / surveyor.

2)  To carryout analysis of one composite sample for Total Moisture, Flow Moisture Point & Transportable Moisture Limit.

3)  The test results of TML to be made available to the Master of the Vessel prior to loading for reference.

4)  To attend the vessel on arrival and carryout monitoring survey of the cargo to be loaded.

5) To Carryout Regular CAN Test and Instant Moisture Test of the sample at hook point during loading.

6)  If a parcel of cargo is suspected to be wet during loading and bringing it to the notice of the concerned. 
7) Surveyor will allow such cargo to be loaded where moisture content is found to be less than TML.  If moisture content is more than TML then please recommend Master to reject such cargo. 
8) OPTIONAL- To carry out initial & final Draft survey and assist Master in stowing and trimming of cargo after loading.

Ships condition apart--bulk loading can be well organised and managed if basic norms are followed  I do believe this can be well managed with Cooperation from all, plus a better knowledge of the BC Code in loading and esp. due respect by shippers for the specifics.

As a former Surveyor to the mechanical ore Terminal at Chennai (commissioned in 1978 ) operated by the Port & MMTC- we had good results and work progressed with due cooperation from all with successful outcomes.

Time changes many things with expansion and costings and degeneration often sets in when unchecked. This matter was earlier taken up for Masters Revalidation Course. It was  also presented at the Nautical Inst. Chennai Chapter seminar by me this year.

All P&I Clubs have published papers on this matter and it is just a matter of taking this procedure across to Trade –i.e. Shippers and all connected inc. the Port Authority,

There is a serious need to build better Awareness to the BC Code within the shore support sector attending bulk cargoes. 

NOTE: In the 1987 -1992 period Bulker Casualties  were reported all across the world and esp at high loading terminals. In the1990s when the Master's Revalidation course was set on stream "Bulk Carrier disasters" was a key subject- Senior mariners will recall the case study  of the m.v. Derbyshire. The Nautical Institute and later the Classification societies had done much research on Bulkers and provided valuable data. Sadly, all is now archived in vaults. History repeats is a truism. A few problems had also surfaced in India--but did not lead to a sinking. Generally it was Improper loading/overloading, heeled and with torsional deflection - inability to  close hatch covers with disregard for trimming


Load Port
m.v. WEN  QIAO
Capsized and sank at North Korea.
Beached with 35 deg list near Mangalore
Developed severe list and entered Port of Vizag for disch.
Beached with 20 deg. List off Car –Nicabar Islands
Capsized and sank at Andaman Sea – West of Bangkok
Sank off Mangalore
m.v. HODASCO 15
Capsized and sank off Malaysia
Sank shortly after departing
Serious list short after sailing and returned to load port.

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