The sinking of the EMERALD STAR in stormy seas off in the Philippine Sea on October 13 ( https://www.fleetmon.com/maritime-news/2017/20043/bulk-carrier-emerald-star-reported-capsized-and-sa/ ) has once again raised the issue of liquefaction as a high risk factor for bulk carriers. The EMERALD STAR was sailing from Indonesia to China with a cargo of nickel ore. There is little doubt that liquefaction was the main cause of the ship capsizing, as the circumstances are similar to the sinking of the BULK JUPITER some years ago. In such tragic situations one question has to be asked: Did the Master of the EMERALD STAR know the true moisture content of his cargo? He would have been entitled to refuse loading or sailing if he believed the cargo was dangerous. But how was he to know?
Repeated warnings have been issued about the risk of mineral ore cargoes liquefying and shifting at sea. SKULD, a world-leading marine insurance provider, has issued loss prevention advice for vessels carrying bauxite cargoes originating in Malaysia and Indonesia, for example. Masters should ask in advance for clear and full cargo descriptions and need to be aware that cargo may be wrongly described (e.g. as harmless Category C when it is actually Category A, i.e. prone to liquefaction). Above all, masters and chief officers should be instructed to refuse a cargo that is not properly documented or where a visible issue is apparent. The risk of liquefaction is heightened, for example, if bauxite is pre-filtered to separate fine and large particles using high-pressure water hoses. A by-product of processing bauxite, red mud, comes with two significant risks: it is highly prone to liquefaction and has a very high and thus hazardously caustic alkaline level. Sometimes, this cargo is described as “iron ore” and given a Category C declaration in shipment documents. Could this have been the case with the EMERALD STAR?
Commercial vessels face a wide variety of risks on shipping routes worldwide. How high is the potential risk for your vessel? Consult our uniquely comprehensive vessel risk rating service ( https://www.fleetmon.com/services/vessel-risk-rating/ ) to find out more.