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Preparing a ship for carrying cargo in bulk - how to maintain standard loading condition

Precautions before and during loading - Bulk carriers guideline

Before loading commences the following precautions must be taken and must remain in force whilst the vessel is loading bulk cargoes:

  1. The Master must ensure that he has as much information as possible concerning the nominated cargoes. All appropriate publications are to be consulted in this respect. The Master must also ensure that he is fully aware of the dangers, precautions and peculiarities, any ventilation and instrumentation requirements associated with the cargoes to monitor temperatures, gas and oxygen levels, moisture content etc. Where there is any doubt, the master is to contact the relevant Management Office for advice.

    A Bulk carrier deck area
  2. When declaring the amount of cargo the vessel can load, due attention must be paid to limitations and draft restrictions at the ports of discharge, bunkers to be taken and trim required for adequate manoeuvrability of the vessel during the voyage.
  3. A Pre-Loading Meeting with the Shore facility is to be held to discuss the Chief Officer’s Cargo/Ballast Load Plan, communications and any relevant Port Regulations applicable to the vessel.
  4. It is of the utmost importance that Loading Operations are carried out with careful regard to the ship’s stability, as well as bending moments and shear force limitations.
  5. The OOW is fully aware of the times of high and low water at the berth.
  6. The ship’s moorings are to be closely monitored and adjusted as necessary to ensure that they have the correct tension.
  7. The OOW must closely monitor the condition of the cargoes being loaded and report any defect immediately.
  8. Where appropriate a gas free certificate is to be issued by a marine chemist.
  9. Where slops have been retained on board these are to be isolated in the appropriate slop tank and


Applying cargo hold pre wash
Fig: Applying cargo hold pre wash

Cargo / hold condition

It is the responsibility of the Master to ensure that the standard of cleanliness required in the cargo holds for the carriage of the proposed cargo is fully understood by the Officers involved in hold cleaning operations, and to ensure that the required standard has been achieved before presenting the vessel for loading.

The condition of the cargo itself must be noted, and if the Master suspects that the actual condition is not as described by the shippers/charterers or their agents, he is to instruct the Chief Officer to make comments on the mates receipts as appropriate, and to also ensure that these comments are copied into the Bills of Lading. If there is any objection to these actions, the Master must inform the relevant Management Office immediately. A P&I representative will be requested to attend on behalf of the Owners and the Master is requested to give him every assistance in documenting the proceedings.

In many cases, a P&I representative will be requested to attend for the purpose of conducting a preshipment inspection of the cargo, the vessel being advised of this in advance. The need for a preshipment inspection will very much depend on the type of commodity involved and the decision to carry out such an inspection will usually be made by the Company although the Master may make a direct request to the appropriate P&I Club for a representative to attend in the case of great urgency. This will also apply to out-turn inspections at discharging ports.

If the Master suspects that the condition of the cargo has changed during the voyage for whatever reason, he must inform the Managers immediately along with as much information as possible on the affected cargo and the reasons for the change of condition. The Company will then arrange an out-turn inspection by the appropriate P&I representative. Once again, the Master is requested to give every assistance in the documentation of the situation.

Maintaining standard loading condition

All ships nominated for loading should hold the appropriate valid statutory certification including, if required, the document of compliance for ships carrying solid dangerous goods in bulk.

It is recommended that the period of validity of the ship's certificates be sufficient to remain valid during loading, voyage and unloading times, plus a reserve to allow for delays in berthing, inclement weather or both.

The ship owner, manager or operator, when offering a ship for a particular cargo or service, should ensure that the ship:

i) is maintained in a sound, seaworthy condition;

ii) has on board a competent crew;

iii) has on board at least one officer proficient in the languages used at both the loading and unloading ports, or has an officer available who is proficient in the English language; and

iv) is free of defects that may prejudice the ship's safe navigation, loading or unloading.

It is essential that a ship selected to transport a solid bulk cargo be suitable for its intended purpose taking into account the terminals at which it will load or unload.

The charterer and shipper when accepting a ship for a particular cargo or service should ensure that the ship:

i) is suitable for access to the planned loading or unloading facilities; and

ii) does not have cargo handling equipment which would inhibit the safety of the loading and unloading operations.

Ships nominated for bulk loading should be suitable for the intended cargo. Suitable ships should be:

i) weather tight, and efficient in all respects for the normal perils of the sea and the intended voyage;

ii) provided with an approved stability and loading booklet written in a language understood by the ship's officers concerned and using standard expressions and abbreviations. If the language is neither English, nor French, nor Spanish, a translation into one of these languages should be included;

iii) provided with hatch openings of sufficient size to enable the cargo to be loaded, stowed and unloaded satisfactorily; and

iv) provided with the hatch identification numbers used in the loading manual and loading or unloading plan. The location, size and colour of these numbers should be chosen so that they are clearly visible to the operator of the loading or unloading equipment.

It is recommended that all ships which are required to carry out stress calculations should have on board an approved loading instrument for the rapid calculation of such stresses.

All propulsion and auxiliary machinery should be in good functional order. Deck equipment related to mooring and berthing operations, including anchors, cables, mooring lines, hawsers and winches, should be operable and in good order and condition.

All hatches, hatch operating systems and safety devices should be in good functional order, and used only for their intended purpose.

List indication lights, if fitted, should be tested prior to loading or unloading and proved operational.

Ship's own cargo-handling equipment should be properly certificated and maintained, and used only under the general supervision of suitably qualified ship's personnel.

Limitations of some bulk cargoes

Bulk cargoes like coal, sulphur and Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) can spontaneously undergo a chemical reaction and ignite/catch fire when in contact with heated surfaces. While transporting such cargoes, crewmembers should keep in check the heat being emitted from fuel oil tanks.

Uncontrolled heating of fuel oil stored in double bottom (DB) tanks recently resulted in cargo damage. Soya bean meal cargo in contact with the tank top of No 4 hold was charred and turned into a hard layer at the bottom of the hold. In other holds, where DB tank temperatures were better controlled, the cargo was not affected. Records proved that the cargo damage was attributable to inadvertent overheating of the DB fuel oil tank in way of No 4 hold during the voyage.

The ship had to be placed off-hire for three days for removal and disposal of the damaged cargo and a heavy cargo damage claim had to be settled with the consignee. Experience has shown that grain, soya bean meal and many other kinds of agricultural produce are prone to damage if they come in contact with heated surfaces.

There are also several other bulk cargoes like coal, sulphur and direct reduced iron (DRI), which can immediately undergo a chemical reaction and ignite or catch fire when in contact with heated surfaces. While transporting such cargoes, besides taking care to control the heating of fuel oil tanks, the recommendations of the IMSBC Code should be strictly followed.

Related articles

  1. Navigation in Ice & safety precautions

  2. Bulk carriers damage stability rules and guidelines

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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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