The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has issued a new warning regarding the transportation of bauxite by ship, as the material could become unstable when carried in bulk and could lead to the capsizing of the vessel.
The warning follows an incident in 2015 that saw a bulk carrier sink during the transportation of bauxite, resulting in 18 fatalities.
Bauxite is one of the major sources of aluminium and nearly 100 million tonnes of the ore are shipped by sea every year.
A study presented to an IMO sub-committee by Global Bauxite Working Group (GBWG) has also found that certain forms of bauxite with a large proportion of smaller particles could be subject to a new phenomenon of ‘dynamic separation’ when there is excess moisture in the cargo.
In such conditions, a slurry liquid of water and fine solids can form above the solid bauxite material.
The free surface effect of liquid moving around during transit could affect the vessel’s stability and lead to the risk of the ship capsizing, according to the report.
IMO’s sub-committee on carriage of cargoes and containers has also released a new circular for the shippers, terminal operators, shipowners, ship operators, charterers, shipmasters and other industry partners, which contains new information on the transportation of bauxite.
The circular has urged industry partners to take extreme care and proper action in accordance with relevant IMO guidelines when handling and carrying bauxite in large quantities.
The circular has already come into effect and is an updated version of a previous circular on the carriage of the ore, which urges various governments to take note of the risk posed by some bauxite cargoes.
Image: Research presented to IMO found that certain forms of bauxite with a large proportion of smaller particles could be subject to dynamic separation when there is excess moisture in the cargo. Photo: courtesy of International Maritime Organisation (IMO).