TT Talk - International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code) becomes mandatory

Following a decision made in 2008 by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the old 'Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes' (BC Code) was renamed the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargo Code and its first edition is due to become mandatory from 1 January 2011. This Code is the solid bulk equivalent of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG Code), which deals with packaged dangerous goods, and has been deliberately aligned with the IMDG Code in name, status and regular revision. In particular, the IMSBC Code will be mandatory and the defined revision cycle will accommodate the latest thinking and accident experience.

Whilst the Code covers stowage and carriage by sea, it also deals with loading and unloading issues.

One issue has been tragically highlighted in the past two weeks. Some cargoes can liquefy if loaded wet and, in that condition, can act like water and cause a ship to take on a list and even in extreme cases capsize. Despite there being a calm sea, this is believed to have happened with a ship carrying nickel ore and crew members are missing believed lost. Another example is DRI which if loaded when wet can emit hydrogen and heat and, in the confines of a ship's hold, can cause fire and explosion and severe damage as well as complete loss.

The IMSBC Code, by becoming mandatory, places an obligation on the loading terminal as well as the ship's master to ensure that where the Code makes stipulations regarding loading conditions they are adhered to before and during the loading operation. Some provisions of the Code will also have relevance ashore, eg coal in large bulk quantities whether aboard ship or ashore can self heat and precautions are necessary to deal with this.

The Code includes a Supplement which itself is not mandatory, although some flag states have given the BLU Code that status for their ships.

The Supplement includes the Code of Practice for the Safe Loading and Unloading of Bulk Carriers (BLU Code) and the Manual on such loading and unloading for Terminal Representatives. Also included are the IMO recommendations for entering enclosed spaces aboard ships and on the safe use of pesticides in ships applicable to the fumigation of cargo holds. ICHCA International and TT Club have collaborated to produce a plastic pocket card in relation to entry into ships' cargo spaces.

Consequently, every terminal and ship that handles or carries cargoes covered by the IMSBC Code should hold a copy of the current edition which was published in 2009.

Members are also reminded that the IMSBC Code will in future be revised every two years in the same way as the IMDG Code. Amendment 1 has already been agreed by the Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers Sub Committee (DSC) at its meeting in September 2010 and will be considered by MSC next May for approval. Following that, it will be published this time next year, have a transitional year 2012 and come into mandatory force in 2013.

Accordingly, a new IMSBC Code will come into force every odd year whereas with the IMDG Code a new edition comes into force every even year.

Staff Author

TT Club