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Encountering hazards while handling solid bulk cargo - ship/shore interface

Encountering hazards in bulk carriers - Possible sources

Lack of Oxygen in cargo holds :It must be emphasised that many bulk cargoes may deplete oxygen and/or emit toxic or explosive gases and fatalities from uncontrolled and ill-planned entry into cargo spaces, sadly, continue to occur. Recent incidents have involved coal, timber, swarf and copper concentrate cargoes thus illustrating that great caution should be exercised not only in entering a hold with hatch covers closed but also when covers have just been opened and the space has not been ventilated. Similarly, compartments adjacent to holds, such as mast houses and store rooms, should be entered with equal caution.

Fall from heights:

Moving equipment and vehicles:

a) Movement of ship loaders and/or unloaders.

b) Movement of mobile plant on terminal:

- Payloaders, skid steer loaders, tractors and trailers,
- Cars, trucks and lorries,
- Cranes and lift trucks.
c) Operation of mobile plant in ships' holds.
d) Inadequate barriers at terminal edges where mobile plant is operating.

When loading and discharging bulk cargo it is very likely that some will be spilt on open decks and hatch covers. While it is sensible to sweep up and tip spilt cargo into the hold, great care must be taken when sweeping off hatch covers to ensure that there is no possibility of personnel working on the covers slipping and falling into the open hold.

Falling objects:

i) Lifting and suspension of grabs.
ii) Material falling from grabs.
iii) Personnel on deck walking under the grab.
iv) Lifting and suspension of mobile plant from terminal to ship and from hold to hold.
v) Lifting and suspension of loading chutes, spouts and arms.
vi) Lifting and suspension of welding and other equipment into hold to carry out damage repairs.
vii) Cargoes falling from ships' hold structures, frames, beams, ledges and ladders.
viii) Personnel lowering or raising equipment in and out of holds with personnel still at work underneath.
ix) Personnel monitoring cargo operations standing too close to where grab is working, and at risk of being struck by grab, or by a breaking grab rope.

Slips, trips and falls:

i) Wet or slippery surface from ice, cargo or oil spillage on ship or terminal.
ii) Badly stowed ropes, hoses and equipment on ship or terminal.
iii) Unmarked obstacles on ship's decks such as manhole covers, securing eyes, safety stanchion sockets.
iv) Climbing and working on and around loose and unstable material in ship's holds.
v) Personnel handling ship's stores on terminal edge.

Fire or explosion:

i)Dust created by certain cargoes may constitute an explosion hazard.
ii) Flammable gases emitted by certain bulk cargoes may give rise to a fire or explosion hazard.
iii) Incompatible materials which may react dangerously.
iv) Materials liable to spontaneous combustion.
v) Bunkering operations.
vi) The use and refuelling of mobile plant in ships' holds.
vii) Smoking and the use of naked flames.
viii) Hot work.
ix) Combination carriers including holds, pumps and pipelines not gas free when unloading dry bulk, or with slop tanks or wing tanks not inerted.

Hazardous substances:

i) Dangerous goods.
ii) Cargoes liable to oxidation, oxygen reduction and emission of toxic fumes, particularly when wet.
iii) Cargoes corrosive to skin and eyes, and to ships structures, particularly when wet.
iv) Cargoes liable to cause oxygen depletion e.g. metals, vegetable/fruit products, forest products.
v) Accumulation of dangerous gases in cargo spaces or in adjacent spaces. Failure to observe Confined Space Entry and Atmospheric Testing procedures.

Health hazards due to dust :

i) Dusty cargoes.
ii) Spillage from loading and/or unloading equipment.
iii) Incorrectly operated and/or maintained loading and/or unloading equipment causing excessive dusting.
iv) Tipping and storage of cargo on terminal.

Strains and sprains:

i) Manual handling such as shovelling, scraping of cargo in ship's holds.
ii) Operating mobile plant in ship's holds.
iii) Operating grab unloaders and similar equipment.
iv) Handling mooring lines.

Tidal movements and wind conditions:

i) Gangway becoming unsafe.
ii) Collision between loader and/or unloader and ship's structure or gear.
iii) Failure of unloader and/or loader braking system in high winds, leading to collision with ship.
iv) Runaway of loader and/or unloader and/or transporter cranes in high winds.

Berthing and moving ships:

i)Collision between berthing ship and loader and/or unloader on terminal.
ii)Breaking mooring lines ­ risk to personnel on ship and terminal from "snap-back" effect.
iii)Passing ships.

Inadequately trained personnel

i) Terminal, contractor or temporary employees assigned to work in terminal or on ship without adequate induction or job specific training.
ii) Ship's personnel unfamiliar with the ship, or with the ship's operations.

Other activities that can occur on an around any terminal:

Failure of persons or organizations controlling different operations to co-operate in ensuring a safe place of work. For example, inadequate control of the activities of personnel, contractors, hauliers, visitors, other ships and port users.

Securing of cargo gear

Derricks, cranes or other cargo handling gear must be lashed or otherwise secured whenever they are placed in their stowage positions.

Maintenance and Operation of Derricks, Cranes and Winches

It is essential that nobody is permitted to use defective equipment, that operating instructions are clearly visible and not obscured by paint or rust and that the winch controller thoroughly understands its operation. Safe Working Loads must be clearly marked on all lifting equipment.

Hold Lighting

In ships, which are fitted with fixed hold lighting systems, the lighting must be switched off in cargo spaces, which are not being worked, or where loading is complete. The entire system must be isolated, when the ship leaves port.

In vessels carrying bulk cargoes it is essential that any fixed hold lighting systems are isolated, or the fuses removed when the holds contain cargo.

Portable lights must always be removed from a hold when cargo operations cease, and must be kept in good condition, including protective guards.


The regulations governing the quadrennial certification and annual inspections of lifting equipment must be fully complied with on board the Company's vessels.


Personnel delegated to operate cranes and derricks on board vessel must receive adequate training prior to being allowed to carry out their duties. The Certificate of Competence to operate ship's lifting plant is to be completed for each person designated to operate cranes or derricks. Training must be carried out by the Chief Officer or Second Engineer and be countersigned by the Master.

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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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