Feb. 2 -- Nickel ore is the deadliest dry bulk commodity shipped by sea, as cargoes that turn to slurry during voyages cause vessels to capsize, with 66 seafarers killed in the past 15 months, Intercargo said.
Ore is at risk of liquefying if it contains too much moisture, which can make ships unstable and cause them to sink before crew can be rescued, according to the London-based International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners.
"All these losses of lives were preventable, and it needs addressing now,” David Jones, manager of the association, also known as Intercargo, said yesterday in a phone interview. “In recent years, this is where we are seeing the most casualties.”
Liquefied nickel-ore cargoes accounted for all 44 deaths among dry-bulk sailors in the final three months of 2010, Rob Lomas, Intercargo’s secretary general, told an industry briefing in London today. A further 22 died since then. Intercargo set out guidelines today for distribution to 300 vessel owners worldwide before new international safety rules are implemented in 2015, Lomas said.
Nickel protects stainless steel from corrosion and 45 million metric tons of the ore were shipped in 2011, according to Intercargo. The trade group’s four-page guide to safe loading of the ore warns of the dangers of false or inaccurate declarations about moisture content, Lomas said.
Insurers told Intercargo that crew arriving to load nickel ore were testing the commodity for moisture content in galley ovens amid concerns for their safety and a lack of adequate testing.
"These cargoes are loaded at archipelago regions from pretty primitive areas that aren’t like traditional ports with quays and sheds, and even have no tarpaulins to keep things dry,” Jones said. The ore is mined in Indonesia, the Philippines and New Caledonia and mainly shipped to China for use in steel making, Jones said.
On average, 26 lives were lost each year on ships hauling all bulk cargoes from 2001 to 2010, according to Intercargo.