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Updated guidance on marine transport of ores and concentrates

There have been numerous accident reports which have highlighted the significant risks of transporting cargoes of fines, ores and concentrates such as nickel and iron ore fines. These cargoes are prone to liquefaction in rough weather – potentially causing bulk carriers to capsize. These incidents can result in vessels being lost. A recent tragedy occurred in August 2019 when the 52,400 dwt bulk carrier Nur Allya, loaded with nickel ore, sank in Indonesian waters. The transport of nickel ore has become among the most dangerous commodities shipped in recent years, thanks in large part to liquefaction incidents. Intercargo, the international dry bulk shipping association, has named nickel ore “the world’s most dangerous cargo”.

The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has published updated guidance which will support the mining and shipping industries in minimising these risk of accidents in maritime transportation – by outlining the techniques required for accurate hazard assessment of ores and concentrates.

The Hazard Assessment of Ores and Concentrates for Marine Transport: Guidance 2021 brings the previous guidance issued in 2014 in line with recent regulatory updates from the IMO and advancements in knowledge in assessing hazards.

The conclusions of the document highlight the main updates from the previous version. 

It brings the previous guidance issued in 2014 in line with recent regulatory updates from the IMO – notably the required mandatory hazard assessment and declaration of solid cargoes, including ores and concentrates, transported in packaged form (IMDG Code) or in bulk (IMSBC Code and MARPOL Convention). An overview of these approaches stresses that assessment requires careful consideration of data in order to achieve consistent outcomes. One resource that has been developed to assist with consistency in cargo classification is MeClas – an analytical tool to determine the classification of complex materials, such as ores and concentrates.

In launching the revised guidance, Sarah Bell, director of product stewardship at ICMM, commented: “The safe production and transport of minerals is central to ICMM’s commitment to a safe, fair and sustainable mining and metals industry. This is therefore a critical piece of work in helping to support ICMM members and the wider industry as they think about their hazard assessment processes. Regulation in maritime transportation has come on a long way since the guidance was first published, and it is vital to reflect this to reduce the risk of accidents and protect people and planet.”

Chris Barrington, chief adviser, International Iron Metallics Association and chair of ICMM’s working group on maritime regulation, added: “Mining activities produce a wide range of ores and concentrates that are shipped across the globe for further processing into metals. Ores and concentrates vary in their chemical and physical properties – and therefore in the potential hazards they present for shipping. Taking into account the fast-changing nature of maritime regulation, the guidance is a critical tool developed by ICMM to support businesses in navigating this landscape, and to better understand the techniques required for accurate hazard assessment.”

This revised guidance forms part of the ICMM’s review of key subject areas – including chemicals management, life cycle management, minerals transport and responsible sourcing.

Andrew Cox

During the 1990s, Dr Andrew Cox was the editor of UK Coal Review and was a regular writer and commentator on the international coal trade and related infrastructure developments. Post-2000, he has been a freelance writer, CPD trainer and project consultant. He focuses on developments in the energy, chemicals, shipping and port sectors.
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