974 - 06/14 - Export of Chinese Fertilizer - China

The Club has become aware of an ongoing issue with the export of fertiliser from China.


Over the last four years, which appears to be about the time when China started exporting fertiliser on a grand scale (having previously been a net importer), the Club has dealt with numerous cases involving different types of fertiliser (such as urea, DAP, MAP and ammonium sulphate) and different load ports all over China.


The standard way of loading fertiliser in China is quite different from most other loading countries.  The cargo is delivered to the vessel in bags, either jumbo bags or 50kg bags.  For loading, the hatch covers are cracked open by about one metre and the gap is then covered with a 1-inch steel mesh.  The bags are lifted onto the grid and then cut open to bleed them into the hold.


The problem is that the cargo in the bags delivered to the vessel is already caked so that much of the cargo on the steel mesh appears to be in the form of big lumps.  The stevedores then break up those lumps with brute force so that the cargo in the hold is superficially free-flowing although with small clusters of up to the 1-inch grid size.  Of course, the fact that the cargo is capable of caking in the bags prior to loading indicates that it is prone to caking and therefore likely to cake again during the ocean voyage.


In each of the cases, when the Master first protested against cargo condition, shippers and all local surveyors advised that this was perfectly normal for fertiliser loaded in China and that receivers knew exactly what they were buying and there would be no problem at discharge.  Unfortunately, we have been involved in several cases where fertiliser was loaded in precisely this manner in China, was seen to be caked in the bags on delivery, was accepted for loading by the Master on clean bills on assurances from shippers and/or local surveyors that this was normal, but where on outturn the receivers have made large claims for caking.


The Club recommends that, where necessary, Bills of Lading are claused accurately to reflect the condition of the cargo as it is delivered to the vessel. 

Source of information

Brookes Bell



UK P&I Club Loss Prevention Dept


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