The London P&I Club has issued a list of recommendations to owners contemplating the carriage of bauxite cargoes in the wake of renewed concerns about the dangers of cargo mis-declaration and potential liquefaction.In the latest issue of the club’s StopLoss Bulletin, Dr Martin Jonas, of international marine consultant and surveyor Brookes Bell, notes that grades of bauxite containing a high proportion of fines capable of retaining significant moisture are potentially at risk of liquefaction, resulting in cargo shift which may cause the capsizing of the carrying ship.

Such cargoes are classed as Group A under the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code and should only be loaded if their moisture content is less than their transportable moisture limit (TML). The IMSBC Code does not explicitly identify bauxite as a potential Group A cargo, with the result that shippers may wrongly declare Group A bauxite as Group C, and may not provide the required TML and moisture certification. Emphasising that shipowners should be alert to potentially mis-declared bauxite cargoes, the club has made a number of recommendations to its members. These include a warning that any cargoes which possess flow properties when wet, or which contain a high proportion of fine particles, should be considered as Group A. Moreover, any wet or damp cargoes which appear on visual inspection to contain a significant proportion of fine particles should be tested for flow properties prior to loading, even if shippers have declared them as Group C.

The club recommends that masters, officers and crew should conduct frequent and regular can-testing in accordance with the method set out in the IMSBC Code, and says that, in the event of a failed can test or the presence of splatter marks on bulkheads and/or pools of free water, loading should be suspended until the cargo has been properly tested in a laboratory for flow characteristics.Among other things, the club also recommends that Group A bauxite cargoes should only be loaded with prior authorisation from the applicable competent authority, and in compliance with the detailed IMSBC Code regulations for sampling, testing and declaration of such cargoes.