As the recent bulletin from the UK P&I Club highlighted, a liquefaction incident occurred on a ship entered with the Club. The ship had loaded Nickel ore from the Philippine Island of Surigao.
Bulk carriers have been facing the issue of Liquefaction for a long time with the loss of some ships being attributed to liquefaction of Iron Ore exported from India. However, strong government measures seem to have reduced the dangers substantially in that sector (though some concerns persist.) In recent times the majority of Liquefaction incidents relate to Nickel ore cargoes being exported from Indonesia and also the Philippines. Due to this all within the International Group have released circulars requiring Members to notify the Managers of any intention to load the Nickel ore cargo along with the various details of the loading.
Following the Jan 2014 ban on ore exports from Indonesia, the incidents from Indonesia seem to have correspondingly reduced. However as the cause for concern mentioned at the start of this article proves, the dangers of export from Philippines still remain. The situation in the Surigao region is because the ore there is very high in Clay content. Because of this, the traditional "rule-of-thumb" tests that the Masters have been carrying out - such as the "Can test" or the "Squeeze/Grasp and drop test" can give misleading results.
The UK Club has released a new circular ( Circular 10/15) to remind Members of the risks of the carriage of this cargo and the obligation to inform the Managers of the loading. This helps the Managers in arranging for the suitable surveyor to attend the loading and protect the Members interests. In case there are any doubts on the notification procedure or obligations, an FAQ is also available.
A point worth including here is the recent incident in January 2015 in which a ship which had loaded Bauxite from Kuantan sank due to suspected liquefaction with heavy loss of life. This is a particularly dangerous situation because ordinarily Bauxite is not Group A cargo, but it may be that the Bauxite Ore is washed and passed through a sieve. In effect this causes a rise in the moisture content of the ore as well as reducing the particle size. Thus there is a danger of the cargo liquefying on unsuspecting ships crew.
More information on Liquefaction incidents can be found on the dedicated Loss Prevention Resource page here: