IMO: Bauxite Liquefaction Sank Bulk Jupiter

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has warned of the possible dangers of liquefaction associated with carriage of bauxite, following consideration of findings from the investigation into the loss of the 2006-built bulk carrier Bulk Jupiter in January 2015.

The Bahama-flagged Bulk Jupiter was carrying 46,400 tonnes of bauxite when it sank about 150 nautical miles off the coast of Vung Tau, Vietnam, with 18 fatalities and only one survivor.

The marine safety investigation into the loss of the Bulk Jupiter has uncovered evidence to suggest liquefaction of cargo led to loss of stability. Liquefaction occurs when a cargo (which may not appear visibly wet) has a level of moisture in between particles. During a voyage, the ship movement may cause the cargo to liquefy and become viscous and fluid, which can lead to cargo flowing with the roll of the ship and potentially causing a dangerous list and sudden capsize of the vessel.

IMO’s Sub-Committee on Carriage of Containers and Cargoes (CCC) established a correspondence group to evaluate the properties of bauxite and coal (some types of coal may liquefy) and consider any necessary amendments to the IMSBC Code.

A circular approved by CCC has warned ship Masters not to accept bauxite for carriage unless:

  • the moisture limit for the specific cargo is certified as less than the indicative moisture limit of 10% and the particle size distribution as is detailed in the individual schedule for bauxite in the IMSBC Code; or
  • the cargo is declared as Group A (cargoes that may liquefy) and the shipper declares the transportable moisture limit (TML) and moisture content; or
  • the cargo has been assessed as not presenting Group A properties.

The circular notes that while bauxite is currently classified as a Group C cargo (cargoes that do not liquefy or possess a chemical hazard) under the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code, there is a need to raise awareness of the possible dangers of liquefaction associated with bauxite. If a Group A cargo (cargo which may liquefy) is shipped with moisture content in excess of its transportable moisture limit (TML), there is a risk of cargo shift, which may result in capsizing, according to IMO.

The mandatory IMSBC Code requires Group A cargoes to be tested, before loading, to determine their TML and their actual moisture content. The testing should confirm the cargo is below the maximum moisture content considered safe for carriage.

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