Liquefaction and reporting delays continue to threaten dry bulk shipping Safety, says Intercargo

Cargo failure (liquefaction) and delays in casualty investigation reporting continued to be a major safety concern for dry bulk shipping, Intercargo has said in its annual Bulk Carrier Casualty Report.

The publication provides analysis of bulk carrier casualties over the past 10 years. Last year the dry bulk shipping sector suffered only one total loss, bulk carrier Nur Allya in August 2019. There have been 39 losses, resulting in 173 deaths, since Intercargo began reporting in 2010.

The Nur Allya went missing, along with its 25 crew members, on August 20th last year while transporting a cargo of Indonesian nickel ore off the northern coast of Buru Island, Indonesia.

After nearly a fortnight searchers found one of the vessel’s lifeboats. The cause of the sinking remained unknown, but Intercargo quickly restated its warning that the industry should use extreme caution when loading nickel ore due to its known tendency to liquefy, cause cargo shift, and as a result unbalance a vessel.

Intercargo said that “this incident alone clearly demonstrates that there is no room for complacency, and Intercargo calls for a prompt and thorough investigation into this tragic loss. It is only through effective root cause analysis that appropriate corrective actions can be put in place to ensure that such an accident never happens again”.

Of the 39 total losses suffered by bulk carriers from 2010 to 2019, eight have been attributed to cargo failure.

The total losses have consisted of six bulk carriers carrying nickel ore from Indonesia, one vessel with iron ore fines loaded with high moisture content from Malaysia, and one vessel with bauxite from Malaysia.

However, Intercargo also emphasized the importance of timely reporting. With several of the flag states of smaller jurisdictions being accused in recent years of a dilatory attitude when it came to completing their investigations, Intercargo noted that only 24 of a total of 39 bulk carrier losses, or about 62 percent, had their investigation reports available on the IMO Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) database as of the end of January 2020.

The association said that the average time from incident to a report becoming available had been 32 months.

Intercargo said that it was “vitally important that casualty investigation reports are submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in a timely manner so that the root causes of serious incidents can be properly identified and the appropriate corrective actions taken.”

Intercargo welcomed the recent amendment to the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC 05-19), which will enter into force at the beginning of 2021.

The new Code incorporates lessons learnt from the loss of the Bulk Jupiter, which was carrying a cargo of bauxite fines.

Intercargo also noted the investigation into the March 2017 loss of the Stellar Daisy. That investigation concluded that vessel foundered due to a structural failure in the No 2 port side water ballast tank. This initiated progressive structural failure within the cargo length and caused a total loss of buoyancy.

The association concluded that “the IMO is expected to consider additional measures for bulk carrier safety in Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) chapter XII, and the 2011 International Code on the Enhanced Programme of Inspections during Surveys of Bulk Carriers and Oil Tankers (2011 ESP Code). These measures are aimed at closing gaps that were identified and reducing the potential for similar very serious marine casualties involving bulk and ore carriers”.