As reported in DCI earlier this year, one of the problems facing the bulk carrier sector’s efforts to improve safety has been the failure of Flag States to complete and make public investigations into casualties. The IMO’s mandatory Casualty Investigation Code does not give a specific timeline but refers to “as quickly as possible” and “as soon as is reasonably practicable” in terms of completing a marine safety investigation report after a casualty.
However, as Intercargo notes, this is not happening. The IMO GISIS database of casualties at the end of January 2018 recorded that 29 investigation reports into 53 bulk carrier losses over 2008-2017 had not been submitted to IMO by their respective Flag States.
It was against this background that Intercargo recently welcomed the “M/V Cheshire Casualty Investigation Report”.
In August 2017, the 2012-built supramax bulk carrier M/V CHESHIRE was on route from Norway to Thailand, fully loaded with cargo declared by the shipper as “Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizer (Non-hazardous)” and therefore not liable to self-sustaining decomposition.
However, according to the report, it suffered cargo decomposition that led to rising temperatures in the cargo holds and the generation of toxic gases. The decomposition progressed throughout the length of the vessel to such an extent that, after several days, the vessel’s Master took the decision to evacuate the crew.
The vessel was then left to drift under the supervision of the Spanish Authorities until being salvaged, but in the end, due to extensive damage, the vessel was declared a constructive total loss.
“The importance of investigating an incident and the subsequent publication of a casualty report cannot be over stated, as identifying the causes of accidents enables corrective actions to be put in place,” said Intercargo.
“Intercargo would like to commend the Isle of Man Ship Registry, the Flag Administration of the vessel, for the timely publication and the clarity of the Casualty Investigation Report of the M/V CHESHIRE.”
The report recommended amending the misleading cargo name from “Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizer (non-hazardous)” to “Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizer (not otherwise classified)”. It also suggested that fertilizer manufacturer provide further information on the behaviour and carriage of this cargo, and consideration of whether the current IMO-stipulated test for assessment of self-sustaining decomposition properties of an ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer was adequate.
Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizer (non-hazardous) is currently designated in the IMSBC Code as a group C cargo. These are cargoes that that do not liquefy (group A) nor possess chemical hazards (group B).
“It is clear from this incident that this cargo, or at least some of the ammonium nitrate based fertilizers shipped as this cargo, should not be treated as group C,” said Intercargo.
“It is Intercargo’s hope that future work at the IMO will lead to the correct designation and description of this cargo within the IMSBC Code, thus furthering the safer carriage of cargoes and safer voyages”
Reporter: Mike King