Ships responsibility of bulk cargo loading, handling of ballast & trimming pours

When the cargo loading plan is agreed, the master and terminal representative should confirm the method of cargo operations so as to ensure no excessive stresses on the hull, tank top and associated structures, and exchange information to avoid any structural damage to the ship by cargo handling equipment.



The terminal representative should alert the master, when the cargo is heavy, or when the individual grab loads are large, that there may be high, localized impact loads on the ship's structure until the tank top is completely covered by cargo, especially when high free-fall drops are permitted. As such impacts have the potential for causing structural damage, special care should be taken at the start of the loading operation in each cargo hold.

Special care needs to be taken with heavy cargoes such as iron ore, scrap iron, lead and other concentrates.on general bulk carriers with uniform hold lengths alternate hold loading or block hold loading may be utilized to stow high density cargoes. With such loading arrangements high shear forces occur at the ends of the holds requiring additional strengthening of the side shell in way of the bulkheads.

The loader chute, spout or grab should be kept as close to the tank top as possible and loading should be started at a low rate until the tank top in the loading area is covered with a layer of cargo. As the pile builds up on that area the cargo will roll down the pile and slowly spread over the rest of the tank top without any heavy impact.

Monitoring of the cargo handling operation, and effective communication between the terminal and ship, must be maintained at all times, and especially during final trimming of the ship.

Communications may be maintained by all or any of the following:

a) Direct verbal contact between the designated ship's officer and the terminal representative.

b) Portable radio communication between designated officer, terminal representative and/ or loader operator.

c) Telephone and/or easily accessible Talk ­ Back speakers on loader structure to allow surveyor/designated ship's officer/terminal representative speak directly with loader operator during trimming operations.

Any requirement for cargo trimming should be in accordance with the procedures of the IMO Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC Code).

The master, the terminal representative and the loader operators at the load port should bear the unloading of the cargo in mind while they are loading the ship. They should, where possible, avoid trimming cargo on to beams or ledges from where it will be difficult or unsafe to remove.

In order to effectively monitor the progress of the cargo loading operation it is essential for both the master and terminal representative to have readily accessible information on the total quantity loaded, as well as the quantities per pour.


Trimming pours:

a) The loading belts should be run empty before the 90% survey if there is any doubt about the quantity of cargo remaining on them.

b) Where applicable scale weights should be checked against the draught survey estimates of cargo loaded and cargo remaining to be loaded, and allowances made for the balance to be loaded.

c)The quantity of cargo to be trimmed into the fore and aft holds should be delivered exactly as required to ensure the ship finishes with the required fore and aft draughts and trim. This will ensure it will be able to depart from the load port and proceed to and arrive at its unloading port safely and with the required under keel clearance.

On completion of loading, the master and the terminal representative should agree in writing that the ship has been loaded in accordance with the loading plan, including any agreed variations.

The ship's agent should assist in preparing the necessary documentation on completion of loading.


Ships responsibility during cargo operation:

The ship is responsible for loading the cargo at all times. The safety of the ship and those onboard is paramount. In preparing for any cargo loading operation, commercial understanding and cooperation with the loading terminal is essential to ensure maximum efficiency. The loading of the ship must be done in accordance with the ship's instructions, not those of the terminal. In the event of any unresolved differences involving safe loading or the safety of the ship after loading, in addition to advising owners agent or operating office it is recommended that the situation is discussed with the port safety services or the coastguard.


Measures against shifting of bulk cargo

Generally, to prevent cargo shift, bulk cargoes with an angle of repose less than 35° should be trimmed level to fill spaces within the cargo hold. This is not such a problem in bulk carriers with wing tanks designed to fill the top spaces within the hold.

Another advantage of trimming cargoes is that it reduces their surface area, reducing the possibility of spontaneous combustion by cargoes such as concentrates.

Most modern ports now use flexible extending grain chutes capable of rotation to reach all parts of a hold. At the final stages of loading, bulldozers can be used to trim the cargo.
In most cases, the angle of repose is provided by the shipper before loading. If there is any doubt, the IMSBC code provides detailed procedures for its calculation.


What is angle of repose ?
The maximum slope angle of non-cohesive (ie, free- flowing) granular material. It is measured as the angle between a horizontal plane and the cone slope of the material.


Deck officer of the watch/ cargo officer duties

During the cargo watch, as well as the normal duties expected of an officer of the watch (OOW), the cargo officer should:
  1. monitor the ballasting operations
  2. monitor the discharge to ensure that the grabs and bulldozers are not causing damage to the holds, tank tops and frames. Rough or bad grab or ‘dozer’ handling should be reported to the terminal authority and stopped
  3. OOW should remain especially vigilant where cargoes are sensitive to water damage
  4. hopper sides and indents paint coating: damaged areas to be repaired
  5. attention to tank top damage and indents
  6. tank top double bottom or side tank access lid damage. If double bottom lids are removed to inspect the tanks, they must be properly refitted. The condition and the fitting of the gaskets must be checked by a competent person, and nuts should be screwed down securely and pressure-tested before the next cargo is loaded
  7. hold ladders, platforms and hand rails should be in a sound and safe condition
  8. checks on hold piping, air vent and water ballast sounding lines, and piping protection brackets
  9. bilge wells, including bilge covers, strum boxes, and bilge well valves, including non-return valves should be in a clear and sound condition. Bilge systems are an increasing cause of wet damage cargo claims. Non-return valves must be checked to ensure they are fully operational. They should be included in the planned maintenance system and formally checked every three to four months, operations permitting. Bilge lines should be blown back to confirm the effectiveness of the valves
  10. bilge high-level alarms should be checked
  11. lights and light fittings should be checked as operational. There have been claims, including some of high value, where the ship and the cargo have been in jeopardy after the hold lights were left on and/or the lighting wiring was in poor condition, leading to fires in the cargo hold or the ladder trunking. All hold lighting circuits should be disarmed prior to loading.




Related Information

Loading, carrying and discharging of bulk coal

Safety precautions for loading and carriage of iron ores

Hazards and safety precautions for grain cargo

Monitoring cargo operation safety checks in a bulk terminal

Procedure for fishmeal loading in bulk




Operation of sea going bulk carriers involved numerous hazards . Careful planning and exercising due caution for all critical shipboard matters are important . This site is a quick reference to international shipping community with guidance and information on the loading and discharging of modern bulk carriers so as to remain within the limitations as specified by the classification society.
It is vital to reduce the likelihood of over-stressing the ship's structure and also complying with all essential safety measures for a safe passage at sea. Our detail pages contain various bulk carrier related topics that might be useful for people working on board and those who working ashore in the terminal. For any remarks please Contact us

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