The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the global agency which regulates shipping, has issued new rules on transportation of bauxite to boost safety of seafarers.
Bauxite is a major raw material in manufacture of aluminium. Kenya does not export bauxite, but other African states such as Sierra Leone and Ghana have joined key exporters such as Guyana, Australia and Malaysia in moving significant quantities across the seas every year.
On Monday, IMO’s Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC 4) issued a circular detailing how the commodity should be shipped as it warned that moisture contained in the bauxite material posed a major risk to shippers.
In its circular which took effect immediately, the IMO wants shippers, terminal operators, ship-owners, ship operators, charterers and shipmasters to take “extreme care and appropriate’ action” when handling bauxite in bulk.
The guidelines provide for new test methods and relevant schedules for bauxite cargoes during the routine scheduled updating of the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code, the industry rulebook on bulk cargoes.
“Governments must note that some bauxite cargoes, specifically those with a larger proportion of smaller particles, present a risk caused by moisture and should be treated as Group A cargoes.” IMO says in a statement circulated on Monday.
“Excess moisture in such cargoes can lead to a free surface slurry. This can cause atypical motion of the ship (wobbling). The master should take appropriate action in the event of this possible sign of cargo instability,” it said.
The guidelines come two years after a Bahamas-flagged vessel sank in Vietnam with bauxite, killing 18 seafarers.
A research report presented to IMO showed that the 2015 incident was caused by a newly-identified phenomenon of “dynamic separation” which caused the ship to tilt due to excess moisture in the cargo.