News 09 Jan, 2015

Malaysia - Bauxite Cargoes

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The recent sinking of an eight year old handymax bulk carrier that resulted in significant loss of life has focused attention on the vessel’s cargo as being the most likely cause of the casualty.

The ship had loaded 46,000 tonnes of bauxite at the Malaysian port of Kuantan and was bound for China. According to reports, the vessel suddenly developed a severe list in heavy weather two days later and capsized. Another vessel loaded with bauxite from Kuantan has since encountered liquefaction problems on passage, strengthening the belief that Malaysian bauxite may not be safe for carriage at present.

Although bauxite is listed in the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code as a Group C cargo (ie not liable to liquefy nor to possess any chemical hazards), there have been previous liquefaction issues associated with bauxite loaded at other ports worldwide.

The IMSBC Code classifies bauxite as a Group C cargo on the basis that it will comprise of 70% to 90% lumps of between 2.5 mm and 500 mm, and 10% to 30% powder, with a moisture content of between 0% and 10%. Earlier cases involving the liquefaction of bauxite are believed to have arisen due to the cargo having a high moisture content caused by exposure to heavy rains while stockpiled, insufficient storage time to allow moisture to drain from the cargo, loading during rainfall and a larger proportion of fine material than that specified in the IMSBC Code.

Members planning to load bauxite from ports in Malaysia should inform the Managers without delay. Until further information is received and the situation becomes clearer such cargoes should not be loaded unless an independent expert has examined the stockpiles and confirmed that the cargo is safe for carriage. In such an event checks should still be made throughout loading to ensure that samples do not exhibit signs of free moisture or fluid conditions when subjected to a “can” test as detailed in section 8.4 of the IMSBC Code. Should a sample fail a “can” test, loading should be halted and the Managers should be notified immediately, as should any attempts by local authorities to fine vessels for failing to load bauxite pending expert advice.

Members requiring further guidance should contact the Loss Prevention department.