New Warning Out on Bulk Bauxite Shipping

According to IMO, around 100 million tonnes of bauxite, one of the world's major sources of aluminum, are moved annually by sea. In 2015, the 10-year-old Bahamas flag Supramax bulk carrier Bulk Jupiter sank with the loss of 18 seafarers, a sinking referenced in the IMO circular.

The International Maritime Organization recently issued a new warning that bauxite may become unstable when carried in bulk on a ship, potentially causing the vessel to capsize. IMO's announcement said research presented to it found that certain forms of bauxite with a large proportion of smaller particles could be subject to a newly identified phenomenon of "dynamic separation" when there is excess moisture in the cargo.

Carrying a date of Sept. 20, 2017, the warning circular took effect immediately, ahead of the scheduled 2019 adoption of new test methods and relevant schedules for bauxite cargoes during the routine scheduled updating of the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code. This code is the industry rulebook on how to deal with bulk cargoes.

The CCC.1 circular updates a previous circular on carriage of bauxite and asks governments to note that some bauxite cargoes (specifically those with a larger proportion of smaller particles) present a risk caused by moisture and should be treated as Group A cargoes. Excess moisture in such cargoes can lead to a free surface slurry that can cause wobbling of the ship -- atypical motion that can produce cargo instability.

According to IMO, around 100 million tonnes of bauxite, one of the world's major sources of aluminum, are moved annually by sea. In 2015, the 10-year-old Bahamas flag Supramax bulk carrier Bulk Jupiter sank with the loss of 18 seafarers, a sinking referenced in the circular.

IMO's Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC 4, which met Sept. 11-15 in London at IMO headquarters) raised awareness on the potential risks posed by moisture and provided new guidance on carriage of bauxite in the circular, which is aimed at shippers, terminal operators, shipowners, ship operators, charterers, shipmasters, and all other entities concerned.

The organization notes there is "a long history of safely shipping bauxites over many decades and problems and accidents resulting from carrying bauxite cargoes are extremely rare." It says, however, that after the loss of the Bulk Jupiter, the global bauxite industry was requested by IMO to undertake research into the behavior of bauxites during ocean transportation and responded by forming the Global Bauxite Working Group to conduct research.

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