Indian Iron Ore Alert - Excessive Moisture Content

October 2007

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There have been a number of recent incidents, including major casualties, resulting from the loading and carriage of iron ore fines from Indian ports.
Shippers are under an obligation to provide valid certificates stating the moisture content of the cargo in question, which content needs to be below the transportable moisture limit  (TML) .  Both figures need to be identified at the time of shipment. Cargo with a moisture content that exceeds its transportable moisture limit is liable to liquefy . Should that occur, the stability of the vessel will be compromised and  may result in severe consequences, including  the potential  loss of the vessel.
Masters loading these cargoes must satisfy themselves that the cargo is safe to carry. They need to ensure not only that the actual moisture content is below the TML, but also  that the  information in the  moisture content certificate is valid: for example a moisture content analysis carried out at a different location ,  or  at  some time in the past may be of little value if the cargo has been sitting in the open  immediately prior to shipment , unprotected from rain. 

If the Master reasonably believes that the moisture content of a cargo may be excessive, possibly based on visual observation during loading, he may take a series of samples and carry out a "can test", as detailed in the BC Code. This is a rudimentary test. It will not indicate definitively whether a bulk cargo does contain excessive moisture; however, it may provide evidence allowing the master to require further testing to be carried out on the cargo in order to assess its transportability. It is recommended that the master undertake such tests where he believes that a cargo may be excessively moist and/or that liquefaction may occur. If in doubt, he should seek assistance from the Club's local correspondent. 
It is recommended that Members loading these cargoes instruct their Masters to proceed with extreme caution and to contact the  Managers' London representatives if they have any concerns. Masters may face considerable local pressure to load and sail. Such pressure should be resisted where the cargo potentially presents a threat to the safety of the  vessel and crew; Steamship Mutual's highly experienced, well established and widespread correspondent network in India will be able to assist in such circumstances.

The principles and potential problems involved in the carriage of this type of cargo are not necessrily limited to Indian iron ore. it is important that the correct regulations are complied with and precautions observed when loading similar cargoes anywhere in the world.