The West of England P&I Club has issued guidance on nickel ore liquefaction, after a Malaysian Bulk Carriers-owned bulker listed while shipping such cargo.
The nickel ore carried by Maybulk’s Alam Manis is believed to have liquefied amid stormy weather when the ship was about 225 nm southeast of Taiwan. Although the ship headed for a port of refuge after Maybulk affiliate POSH Semco despatched a salvage tug to assist, the listing worsened and all 21 crew members were evacuated. However, chief mate Henry Libo-on suffered a heart attack and died during the evacuation.
Alam Manis was en route to Lianyungang, China, after loading the cargo in Surigao, Philippines.
The West of England P&I Club revealed that another ship has reportedly experienced liquefaction issues while loading nickel ore in the same place.
The club added that its correspondents in Manila have advised that nickel ore from the Philippines has substantial clay content.
A ‘can’ test, a standard method for detecting moisture, may produce satisfactory results but may prove to be unsafe if the sample is tested in an independent laboratory.
The club said, “Although a can test which results in the appearance of fluid conditions or free moisture clearly indicates that the moisture content of the material is higher than the flow moisture point (FMP) and should be rejected, it should not be assumed that the cargo is safe to carry if the samples remain dry as the moisture content, while lower than the FMP, may still exceed the transportable moisture limit (TML). In order to comply with the provisions of the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code, the moisture content of the material must be less than the TML which can only be determined by testing the product in a laboratory.”
Other signs of trouble could include water inside the cargo holds as the cargo is placed on the ships, splattering sounds when nickel ore is dropped onto the deck from a height of 2-3 m or when the cargo is released into the holds.
Samples that have a sheen or ooze water when manually squeezed could also suggest something is wrong.
The club advised, “In addition to appointing a surveyor as required by the club’s bye-laws, members planning to load nickel ore at Surigao or Dinagat are advised to consider making arrangements for cargo samples to be tested by an independent laboratory prior to loading, irrespective of the cargo declaration and test certificates provided by the shippers. Since this may take several days, the club should be contacted well before the vessel’s arrival. Moreover, if any of the negative indications described above are observed during loading, the club should be informed immediately as expert advice may be required.”