Caution advised as Sierra Leone Iron Ore Fines shipments are increasing

Iron Ore Fines are becoming an increasing concern with clubs (see yesterday’s story in IMN). North of England has warned that shipments of iron ore fines (IOF) from Pepel Port, Sierra Leone were on the increase, but that vessels loading this cargo should be alert to the risks of liquefaction.

The increase in the number of shipments from Sierra Leone represented a phased restart of iron ore mines in the region, but North warned that in some instances the cargoes intended for shipment might have been sitting in uncovered stockpiles for a number of years. Furthermore, the Club warned that some of the cargoes were previously considered too low a grade for export purposes and would originally have been targeted for blending with higher grade material. But these are currently not being extracted from the mines due to wider market conditions.

The Club warned that, where sighted, the declarations and accompanying documentation provided to the vessel by shippers suggested a lack of knowledge of the requirements of the IMSBC Code 2020 and the liquefaction risks involved with the carriage of group A cargoes.

North said that it had consulted with material experts Roxburgh, who advise that “iron ore fines are by definition Group A and have a particle size distribution (PSD) of 10% or more <1mm and 50% or more <10mm, with a total Goethite content of <35%. Any material specification outside this criterion is Iron Ore and Group C.

“In some cases, the shipper’s declaration has been inaccurate and shown a number of inconsistencies which would indicate the Shipper has not adequately assessed or understood the safety characteristics of the material intended for loading.”

The Club warned that IOF from the region could be “a very dangerous product when shipped with moisture contents in excess of 13-14%, with a risk of liquefaction occurring at 14% and above”. It said that “commonly materials from the region will typically demonstrate moisture contents in excess of 11% to 14% when the wet season commences.”

In the dry season Roxburgh said that it would expect the upper surfaces of any stockpiled material to appear relatively dry, but wet at increasing depths. “Given some shippers’ apparent lack of understanding there is a chance that any moisture content determination is inaccurate and not representative of the cargo intended for loading”.

Members were also warned that check tests (can test) run on this material might provide misleading results if not correctly interpreted, “Therefore the presence, or not, of surface water in the can should not solely be used as the basis for loading acceptance”.

North concluded that “calling vessels should ensure they receive the shipper’s declaration and test certificates well in advance to address any issues.