ABTO calls for overhaul of cargo testing protocols

The Association of Bulk Terminal Operators (ABTO) has said that a complete overhaul is needed of the protocols for cargo sampling and liquefaction testing with raw ores and cargoes such as nickel ore, fine wet coal and bauxite. ABTO advisory panel member Professor Mike Bradley, who is head of Greenwich University’s Wolfson Centre for Bulk Solids Handling Technology, said that the current measures in place to test cargoes for potential liquefaction were inadequate, particularly when raw ores and variable materials were loaded in ports during bad weather. Professor Bradley said that the current methods available to a ship’s master for identifying the dangers of cargo liquefaction were “rudimentary”. “The ‘can test’ consists of nothing more than a ‘baked beans tin’ filled with a sample of the cargo, which is then vigorously tapped on the table. If a liquid film forms on the sample surface, the cargo is deemed dangerous and must be rejected; if not, it may be either safe or dangerous!”, said Bradley, noting that in several cases masters had used the “can test” and that there had later been liquefaction of the cargo in poor weather. – “not easy to see in the dead of night with dark coloured cargo in a badly lit hold,” he said. The splash test simply checks to see if the cargo “splashes” when dropped from a grab into the hold. “The current IMO protocol for setting Transportable Moisture Limits and certifying actual Cargo Moisture Content is robust for some cargo flows, but sadly falls down too often for others, as evidenced by the number of lives still being lost at sea due to cargo liquefaction. Ultimately the master has to take responsibility for whether a cargo is loaded or not, and he is under commercial pressure not to reject it – so in cases where he has suspicions he really needs a better, more reliable shipboard test he can use to protect both his employer’s business and the lives of his crew,” Bradley said. He revealed that the Wolfson Centre had completed preliminary research work on the development of a more effective, accurate cargo liquefaction test kit that can easily be used on board ship. “Current tests used in cargo labs require far too much specialist skill and expensive equipment to be used by the crew aboard ship. The proposed test is based on a practical approach that can be done using low-cost equipment that can be replicated easily”, said Bradley, noting that it did not replace the current system of TML and MC certification, but provided the master with an opportunity to check where there was some doubt over change in the condition of the cargo, the quality of sampling, the veracity of the certification, or the effect of bad weather on moisture during loading. “We have been talking to a number of parties, including ABTO members, P&I Clubs and classification societies to take the initiative forward. We have proven the basic concept, which seems to work, so we are now looking to the industry to support the development”, said Bradley. A draft programme for ABTO’s inaugural conference, to be held in London on October, is available at: http://www.bulkterminals.org/js/plugins/filemanager/files/ABTO_2017_Draft_Program me.pdf