For some parts of the world, the monsoon season is fast approaching. Such extreme weather conditions are known to cause serious problems with the carriage of certain bulk cargoes. The IMO has, therefore, recently considered issues relating to the dangers posed by the carriage of such cargoes at a meeting of the Sub-Committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers.

Bulk cargoes such as nickel ore, iron ore fines and sinter feed can liquefy on board a vessel if the moisture content of the cargo is too high. If this happens, the vessel in question can run into serious difficulties. Indeed, in late 2010 three vessels sank whilst carrying bulk cargoes, with the loss of 44 lives.

The IMSBC Code and SOLAS provide that various data relating to the moisture content of such cargoes must be certified before they are loaded. However, it is often the case that there are no adequate facilities where the cargo can be tested accurately. Further, shippers have been known to falsify cargo documentation in order to ensure that a cargo is loaded without delay. This means that, even if documentation is presented stating that the moisture content of the cargo is satisfactory, there are many reasons why this documentation should not always be taken at face value.

At the most recent meeting of the Sub-Committee, amendments to the IMSBC Code were discussed, including issues relating to the evaluation of properties of solid bulk cargoes. Methods of transporting cargoes prone to liquefaction were also considered.

It is understood that the Sub-Committees findings and/or recommendations will be published in the latter half of October 2011.