Liquefaction of mineral ores, leading to cargo shift and loss of stability, has been a major cause of marine casualties and the loading and carriage of nickel ore from Indonesia and the Philippines have been a concern for almost a decade now.

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In January 2011, Gard issued a circular containing several recommendations and practical advice on how to reduce the risks regarding nickel ore. Nonetheless, because of various dangers and difficulties related to this cargo, another circular was issued in May 2012 making recommendations about the mandatory notification requirement for Members who plan to fix or charter a ship to load nickel ore from ports in Indonesia and the Philippines, or where under a current fixture a ship is ordered to load such a cargo.

The information required includes:

  • Ship name;
  • Port/anchorage of loading and estimated time of arrival;
  • Date of intended loading;
  • Charterer/shipper’s details;
  • Agent’s details;
  • Copy of the shipper’s cargo declaration and supporting certificates.

It is worth reiterating that the responsibility for ensuring IMSBC code compliance and additional measures for the safe carriage rests with the Members. However, by notifying the club, Members can receive advice and assistance to reduce or mitigate the risk of carrying such cargoes. The mandatory requirement applies to all P&I owner and charterer Members

Gard states.

In addition, Gard has also implemented geofencing as a proactive approach to prevent losses from the carriage of nickel ore. The use of ships' AIS data along with local knowledge about high risk ports and areas, like the critical ports for the loading of nickel ore, enables the interaction with ship operators at a very early stage. Specific guidance and suggestion on how to reduce the risks can be provided, ensuring the right resources are available in cases issues arise at the load port.

Namely, when a bulk carrier enters one of the critical ports for the loading of nickel ore, the Club can contact the operator and remind the information needed as part of the mandatory notification requirement as well as recommendations for the safe carriage of nickel ore.

This aims to open a dialogue regarding loss prevention between Gard and the operator and to share relevant information. When the bulk carrier leaves from the port for the loading of nickel ore, the operator can be asked to provide specific information on the precautions taken during and on completion of loading.

While the use of geofencing as a means to prevent incidents of nickel ore liquefaction is still a small-scale loss prevention project within Gard, we believe that, over time, this approach can help Members trade more safely

the Club adds.

However, Gard’s geofencing alerts are limited to owned vessels entered with Gard, and do not detect vessels that are chartered by charterer operators. For this reason it is vital for charterers to notify Gard every time they fix their ships for loading such cargo.

Geofencing alert mainly aims not to monitor Gard’s operators activity, but remind them the risks and the precautions that can be taken to address those risks.

Gard has received 35 geofencing alerts since December 2017. Of these 35 notifications, external surveyors were appointed for seven loading operations and none of the exit surveys showed signs of liquefaction.

While it is a positive sign that no liquefaction was reported in these cases, continued vigilance is needed. The practice of misdeclaration of moisture content is still prevalent and masters and ships’ crew can experience significant pressure from shippers when they refuse to load the cargo and request independent testing