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Loading, carrying and discharging bulk sulphur - safety precautions

Sulphur has certain properties; corrosion and the emission of certain gases. A copy of the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) should be requested from the shipper prior to loading the cargo. This will outline the characteristics of the cargo as well as any specific precautions to be followed during handling and carriage.

Bulk sulphur (whether formed solid, crushed lump or coarse grained) can be highly corrosive when in contact with water, and so the hold paint coating needs to be in a good condition. It is usual to limewash the holds to protect the steel structures. There are proprietary products, such as hold block, designed for preparing holds for carrying sulphur.

Fig: Finishing off a sulphur cargo – note the indents in the tank top

If the hold steelwork is not protected, contact with wet sulphur can turn the yellow sulphur into a black jelly-like substance, called ferrous sulphide. If this is exposed to air, usually on discharge, it oxidises and can create sufficient exothermal heat to start a fire.

The holds should not be washed with seawater, but should be thoroughly cleaned and washed with freshwater. The hold tank top should be rust-free. The holds are usually required to be cleaned to a grain standard, with no previous cargo residues, and no rust scale or flaking paint.

The sulphur is often loaded with a light water spray, which helps to bind the cargo into bigger lumps, or it can be loaded from shore stockpiles, which can be wet from rain, so the bilges need to be monitored during the voyage and pumped out. The bilges need to be protected by being covered with burlap to allow drainage.

Some experts suggest a light limewash or hold block of the bilge lines. Hold block the bilge wells with a thicker coat than the tank top. Caustic soda (alkaline solution), to neutralise the acid drain water, can be placed in the bilge well. Use only the eductor for pumping out the bilges and run to sea at least 15 minutes after pumping is completed. During the voyage, monitor the ph value of the bilge well water.

Cleaning after carriage is important, since residues can create corrosive mixtures (sulphuric acid) and damage the steel structure in the holds.

Before arrival : Weather and other conditions permitting, it is prudent to inspect the cargo before arrival at the discharge port. Small amounts of residue from the previous cargo can be dislodged from the upper frames.

Some sulphur is prilled before being shipped: that is, it is coated to block its corrosive effects; however, when the commodity is loaded, the prilling breaks down, exposing the raw sulphur. Prilling reduces the risk of corrosion but does not remove it.

Note the safety precautions associated with the carriage of sulphur as set out in the IMBSC Code, including personal protective equipment and the extinguishing of lighting inside holds. A strict ‘no smoking policy’ should be in force on deck during carriage.

Although surveyors may check and inspect the holds before loading and comment on the limewash or hold block, it is the master’s responsibility to ensure that the ship’s structure is adequately protected.

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Our detail pages illustrated many safety aspects of Bulk carrier

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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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