BIMCO has made two submissions to the 15th session of the International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s Sub-committee of Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC 15), which will be held from 13 -17 September 2010 at the IMO’s London headquarters. One submission deals with the classification criteria for materials hazardous only in bulk (MHB) in the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code. Many might ask what is a MHB cargo in the IMSBC Code? A good question indeed. For now, it is defined in the IMSBC Code as any solid cargo which may possess chemical hazards other than materials classified as dangerous goods in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. Unfortunately, unlike the hazard classification system of the IMDG Code, there is no clear guidance or criteria in the IMSBC Code as to what constitutes a MHB cargo or for that matter, what are the hazards of a MHB cargo?
Currently, the existing MHB cargoes in the Code are classified based on experience and history of shipment. In view of the IMSBC Code becoming mandatory on 1 January 2011, many delegations at DSC 14 last year felt that criteria should be established for MHB to provide users of the IMSBC Code with clear guidance on the classification of the various types of solid bulk cargoes found in the Code. Such established criteria will also tie in with the new provisions in the IMSBC Code whereby a competent authority will assess the classification of any new cargo or any cargo not listed in the Code.
In this regard, two Member Government States have submitted a proposal discussing how classification criteria could be developed for MHB and presenting various options in the pursuit of such criteria. BIMCO, in its submission, provided comments on this proposal, in particular seeking clarification on the “experience” criteria which the submitters appear to wish to retain and have such criteria prevailing over the MHB classification criteria once established. BIMCO is of the opinion that this would appear to defeat the purpose of establishing MHB criteria when ultimately the ”experience” criteria would still be the decisive factor in the ultimate classification of a MHB cargo. In addition, BIMCO highlights its concern with the submitters’ intention not to re-classify existing cargoes in the IMSBC Code accordingly once the MHB criteria are established. Furthermore, BIMCO questions whether it is the intention of the submitters to have the shipper responsible for the correctness of the classification of cargoes in the IMSBC Code. Finally, BIMCO also highlights the lack of explanation pertaining to “chemical hazards” and “special hazards”, terms which are used in the Code and not defined accordingly.
The second submission which BIMCO made to DSC 15 relates to the shipment of “iron ore fines”. India, being one of the leading exporters of iron ore fines, has provided information to the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 87) on iron ore fines and the problems surrounding the carriage of such cargo. Two recent serious casualties in the monsoon season of 2009 plus many near misses reported by ship Masters on ships engaged with the carriage of iron ore fines led the Indian Maritime Administration (IMA) to conduct safety investigations of these incidents. The results of these findings were reported to MSC 87 and one of the findings was the fact that the cargo "iron ore fines" is not specifically listed in the IMSBC Code.
In view of India’s submission, BIMCO felt that it was opportune to submit its concerns regarding the carriage of this cargo to DSC 15. In 2007, the BIMCO Secretariat was alerted by the various P&I Clubs on the loading of iron ore fines from Indian ports. Since then, BIMCO has been monitoring the situation and its developments. BIMCO is concerned that casualties appear to show no signs of abating based on continuing alerts received from the P&I Clubs to its members as well as from other reporting casualty services, highlighting the dangers of loading iron ore fines and the problems associated with it; in particular, the liquefaction of this cargo which had caused marine casualties, near misses and detention of vessels.
The DSC 15 is also informed in the BIMCO submission that the BIMCO Secretariat has been receiving many enquiries from members regarding the carriage requirements of "iron ore fines"; not only shipments from India but from other exporting countries as well. BIMCO noted that many shippers have declared this cargo under "iron ore", which is classified as a Group C cargo, describing it as non-dangerous, harmless, and not liable to liquefy. But due to the nature of the cargo, i.e. constituting all "fine" particles and containing moisture, it thus has the tendency to liquefy if it contains moisture enough to cause shifting of cargo and to eventually capsize a vessel. In addition, experience with this cargo has made it necessary for Masters to insist that shippers produce a certificate indicating the cargo's moisture content and transportable moisture limit and to load the cargo as if it was a Group A cargo (i.e., a cargo that may liquefy) and in accordance with the IMSBC Code requirements for this group of cargoes.
In its submission, BIMCO opined that the problems caused by the carriage of this cargo are attributed to the basic fact that "iron ore fines" is not specifically listed in the IMSBC Code, hence the uncertainty of how this cargo should be declared or carried safely under the Code.
BIMCO has put forward the following proposals in its submission:
Calling for a review of the existing non-hazardous “iron ore “cargo entry in the IMSBC Code, which would need to be ‘tightened’ in terms of its description and size characteristics which seem to allow for fines to be classified under this entry;
A new cargo schedule for “iron ore fines” to be listed in the IMSBC Code; and
Issuance of an immediate DSC circular to all concerned, on the carriage of iron ore fines and urging Member Governments to submit to DSC relevant information regarding its carriage requirements whilst the review and development of the above-mentioned cargo schedules are in progress.