Intercargo calls for corrective action on designation of certain fertilizer cargo under IMSBC code

International trade association Intercargo, which represents the interests of dry cargo vessel owners, has called on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to correct the designation of certain ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer cargo under the IMSBC code in response to the recent publication of the casualty report into the total loss of the M/V Cheshire (IMO 9593646).

In August 2017 the 2012-built supramax bulk carrier was en route from Norway to Thailand, fully loaded with cargo declared by the shipper as being “Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizer (Non-hazardous)” and not liable to self-sustaining decomposition.

The Isle of Man Ship Registry’s casualty report into the incident determined that the thermal decomposition of the ammonium-based fertilizer cargo occurred even though all required safeguards were in place on board the vessel.

The vessel suffered cargo decomposition that led to rising temperatures in the cargo holds and the generation of toxic gases. The decomposition spread throughout the length of the vessel to such an extent that, after several days, the vessel’s Master took the decision to evacuate the crew. After several days adrift under the supervision of the Spanish Authorities, the vessel was eventually salvaged but, due to extensive damage, it was declared a total loss.

Intercargo noted that Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizer (non-hazardous) was currently designated in the IMSBC Code as a group C cargo, meaning it did not liquefy (group A) nor possess chemical hazards (group B).

Intercargo said it was clear from the Cheshire incident that this cargo, or at least some of the ammonium nitrate-based fertilizers shipped as this cargo, should not be treated as group C.

“It is Intercargo’s hope that future work at the IMO will lead to the correct designation and description of this cargo within the IMSBC Code, thus furthering the safer carriage of cargoes and safer voyages,” Intercargo said.

The report recommended amending the misleading cargo name from “Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizer (non-hazardous)” to “Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizer (not otherwise classified)”, that fertilizer manufacturers provide further information on the behaviour and carriage of this cargo, and consideration of whether the current IMO-stipulated test for assessment of self-sustaining decomposition properties of an ammonium nitrate based fertilizer was adequate.

Other recommendations in the report included the provision of specialist equipment onboard the vessel, monitoring of the cargo atmosphere by the crew, and the development of cargo and ship-specific procedures related to the carriage of this cargo. Intercargo said that it was of the strong opinion that these additional precautions, which were being called upon to be the responsibility of the vessel, ought to be unnecessary if the cargo was group C.

“The IMSBC Code, which is mandatory under SOLAS, stipulates that the Shipper should provide the vessel with all the appropriate information that enables a cargo to be carried safely. It is Intercargo’s belief that accurate cargo information, provided by the shipper, is the cornerstone for the safe carriage of bulk cargoes,”  the association said.

(Details from time of the event): 2012-built, Isle of Man-flagged, 33,042 gt Cheshire is owned by Bibby Transport and managed by Bibby Line Ltd, both of Liverpool, UK. ISM manager is V Ships Asia Group Pte of Singapore. Amlin Syndicate 2001 is claims leader for Hull and Hull & Machinery, on behalf of Bibby Ship Management. Gard has a subscription interest.


New treaty accession (#prcf)

StateTreatyDate of depositDate of Entry into force
MonacoMARPOL Protocol 97 (Annex VI)14 May 201814 August 2018