News 21 Jul, 2015

Philippines - Liquefaction of Nickel Ore from Surigao

Earlier this month a supramax bulk carrier sailed for Lianyungang, China after loading a cargo of nickel ore at Surigao, Philippines.

The nickel ore in two of the vessel’s cargo holds liquefied when heavy weather was encountered approximately 225 miles south east of Taiwan, causing a heavy list. Although the master headed for a port of refuge with an escort tug in attendance, the list increased to the point where it was necessary to abandon ship. Sadly, one crewmember did not survive.

According to reports, another vessel has also experienced cargo liquefaction problems this month while loading nickel ore at anchor in Surigao.

Members are reminded that they must notify the Club in accordance with International Group requirements when planning to fix or charter a vessel to load nickel ore from the Philippines or Indonesia. The details are set out in Notice to Members No 14 2013/2014. In addition, the International Group circular on the Safe Carriage of Nickel Ore Cargoes should be read and followed.

Club correspondents Pandiman, Manila have advised that nickel ore from Surigao and Dinagat has a particularly high clay content. Samples may appear to be satisfactory when subjected to a “can” test but may prove to be unsafe when sent to an independent laboratory for testing.

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 IMSBC 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 that the cargo may be unsafe include free water inside the holds during loading, “splattering” when lumps of nickel ore are dropped on to the deck from a height of 2 to 3 metres or released by grab into the holds, and samples that develop a sheen or ooze moisture when squeezed by hand.

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.

Members requiring further guidance should contact the Loss Prevention department.