668 - 12/09 - Carriage of DRI, BC Code (Reminder) - Worldwide

Date: 11/12/2009

The tragic loss of the Marshall Islands registered vessel YTHAN on 28th February 2004 off Colombia was caused by explosions in four of her five cargo holds, resulting from the ignition of hydrogen that had accumulated in the holds overnight. This flammable gas had been produced from a reaction between her cargo of "HBI Fines" that was loaded at Palua, Venezuela and moisture (fresh water) inherent in it. This was not the first explosion that had occurred during ocean shipment of this material.

The BC Code of the day recognised two types of DRI, namely hot moulded briquettes or hot briquetted iron (BC016), and pellets, lumps etc (BC015). These were subsequently re-designated as DRI (A) and DRI (B), respectively. The carriage requirements for the former are much less stringent than those applying to the latter. It was claimed by shippers that the YTHAN cargo could be carried in the same manner as DRI (A), although a reasonable interpretation of the BC Code restricted the proportion of fines (smaller than 4mm in size) to less than 5%. In reality, these DRI / HBI fines cargoes that were being carried did not fall within either of the schedules, and the expert advice was to treat it as the more dangerous and reactive type of DRI (B).

A paper concerning the matter was submitted to the IMO Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) by the Marshall Islands in 2004, and the topic has been discussed at every subsequent meeting of the Sub-committee on Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC). This has most recently been undertaken in parallel with their revision of the BC Code. As can be anticipated, there was substantial disagreement between the manufacturers association (HBIA), led by the main producers in Venezuela, and the shipping community, which severely hampered the agreement of schedules to include all the types of DRI and its derivatives that might be offered for carriage. However, as a result of the concerted efforts of the Marshall Islands, the International Group of P&I Associations, and Intercargo, new schedules were drafted and agreed at DSC 13 in September 2008. These were adopted in their entirety at the MSC Session in November 2008, and published as the new IMSBC Code in 2009. The Code is recommendatory until January 2011 when it will become mandatory. It is also envisaged that this will be a "live" document and subject to biennial revision.

The major step forward has been to include DRI Fines in a separate schedule, designated DRI (C). There remains the limit of 5% fines in DRI (A and B).

The main changes to the Code may be summarised as follows:

All Types of DRI

  • Fines are now defined as particles up to 6.35mm (¼") in size.
  • The carrier's representative is to have reasonable access to stockpiles and loading installations for inspection.
  • The cargo temperatures are to be monitored during loading and recorded in a log.
  • Cargo temperatures and hydrogen concentrations in hold atmospheres are to be monitored on voyage.
  • The hydrogen concentration is to be measured in holds prior to opening hatch covers.
  • All records of measurements are to be retained on board for 2 years.

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