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Causes of iron ore liquefaction during sea passage & countermeasures

In 2009 two ships - the ‘Asian Forest’ and the ‘Black Rose’ - capsized and sank following liquefaction of iron ore fines which they had loaded at the Indian ports of Mangalore and Paradip. There have been other incidents of liquefaction, particularly when iron ore fines have been loaded during or after the Indian monsoon season, resulting in ships becoming unstable and being forced to seek refuge.

Iron ore fines

Fig :Iron ore fines in good condition after loading in a hold



Iron ore fines liquefied

Fig :Iron ore fines liquefied after transportation in the same hold

In other cases cargoes loaded have been found to have a moisture content in excess of the Transportable Moisture Limit (TML) prior to the ship’s departure and the ships in question have been prevented from sailing by the local authorities until the situation has been rectified, leading to substantial delays.

The Master or his representative should monitor the loading operation from start to finish. Loading should not be commenced until the Master or the ship’s representative is in possession of all requisite cargo information in writing as described above.

The Master has an overriding authority under SOLAS not to load the cargo and/or to stop the loading of the cargo if he has any concerns that the condition of the cargo might affect the safety of the ship.

The shipper must provide the Master or his representative in writing with all information and documentation required under the IMSBC Code in sufficient time before loading to ensure that the cargo can be safely loaded onto, carried and discharged from the ship .

The documentation must include: (a) A certificate/declaration certifying the moisture content of the cargo loaded in each of the ship’s holds together with a statement that to the best of the shipper’s knowledge the moisture content is the average moisture content of the cargo.

(b) A certificate certifying the TML of the cargo together with the FMP test result prepared by a competent laboratory
(Source : Britannia circular 2010)


Iron ore characteristics

Iron ores are rocks and minerals from which metallic iron can be economically extracted. The ores are usually rich in iron oxides and vary in color from dark grey, bright yellow, deep purple, to rusty red. The iron itself is usually found in the form of magnetite (Fe3O4), hematite (Fe2O3), goethite (FeO(OH)), limonite (FeO(OH).n(H2O)) or siderite (FeCO3). Hematite is also known as "natural ore", a name which refers to the early years of mining, when certain hematite ores containing up to 66% iron could be fed directly into iron-making blast furnaces.

Iron ore is the raw material used to make pig iron, which is one of the main raw materials to make steel. 98% of the mined iron ore is used to make steel.[1] Indeed, it has been argued that iron ore is "more integral to the global economy than any other commodity, except perhaps oil".

Iron ore Bulk density ( Kg/m3) 1250 to 3448
Stowage Factor (m3/t) = 0.29 to 0.80

Iron ore Loading Port: Haldia, Paradip, INDIA
Discharging port: Xingang, China


Consideration prior loading Loading guideline

Trim in accordance with the relevant provisions required under section 4 and 5 of the IMSBC code. As the density of the cargo is extremely high, the tank top may be overstressed unless the cargo is evenly spread across the tank top to equalize the weight distribution. Due to consideration shall be paid to ensure that the tank top is not overstressed during voyage and during loading by a pile of the cargo.


Precautions during loading

Loading rates of this cargo are normally very high. Due consideration shall be paid on the ballasting operation to develop the loading plan require by regulation vi/9.3 in the solas convention To stop loading if further moisture and/or can tests are conducted, as necessary, on any parts of the cargo presented for shipment (sections 4.5.2 and 8.4 of the IMSBC Code). To monitor the stockpiles and/or barges to ensure that the cargo presented for shipment is from the designated and tested stockpiles and/or barges. This will involve keeping a careful tally and identification of barges offered for loading. To ensure loading is suspended during periods of rainfall.




Problems in Brazilian ports

There are reports of iron ore sinter feed (or sinter feed) shipments from Brazilian ports, including Ponta da Madeira, Tubarao and Itaguai, liquefying en route. Some Brazilian shippers declare sinter feed as a Group C cargo, under the IMSBC Code. This categorises the cargo as not being prone to liquefaction, so shippers do not have to provide test results for moisture content, Transportable Moisture Limit (TML) and Flow Moisture Point (FMP). Sinter feed is clearly listed in the IMSBC Code as Iron Concentrate, under the schedule for Mineral Concentrates. All cargoes covered by this schedule are Group A cargoes and are prone to liquefaction.







Related Information

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  5. Special arrangements for carrying grain cargo


  6. Grain handling precautions - various limitations


  7. Safety precautions for loading and carriage of iron ores


  8. Risk of carrying high density iron ores in bulk


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  10. Pig iron preparations for bulk loading


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  12. Handling of bauxite - The environmental impact of Jamaica bauxite mining


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Our detail pages illustrated many safety aspects of Bulk carrier

Home page |||Bulk carrier types ||| Handling of bulk coal |||Cargo planning ||| Carriage of grain |||Risk of iron ores |||Self unloading bulk carriers |||Care of cargo & vessel |||Cargoes that may liquefy |||Suitability of ships |||Terminal guideline |||Hold cleaning |||Cargo cranes |||Ballast handling procedure |||Bulk carrier safety |||Fire fighting systems |||Bulk carrier General arrangement






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  18. Measures against liquefaction of bulk cargo


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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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