Nickel Ore Deemed Deadliest Bulk Cargo on Ship Sinking Risks

Published Nov 20, 2012 4:12 PM by The Maritime Executive

Intercargo has reported that nickel ore is now the deadliest dry bulk commodity that we ship by sea. As a cargo that turns to slurry during a voyage, nickel ore causes many vessels to capsize, killing approximately 66 mariners in the past 15 months.

The International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners states that ore is at a high risk of liquefying if it holds too much moisture. This can make ships unbalanced and cause them to sink before the crew can be rescued. In recent years, this area is where the most preventable casualties were seen. Liquefied nickel-ore cargoes have accounted for 44 deaths among dry-bulk sailors in just the last three months of 2010. Additionally, 22 more seafarers have died since then.

Intercargo has now set out guidelines to 300 ship owners around the world to use as a model before the new international safety rules are put into effect in 2015. 45 million metric tons of the ore were shipped in 2011; this guide details safe loading procedures and warns about the dangers of false or inaccurate statements about moisture content. Insurers claim that crew arriving to load nickel ore do test the dry bulk shipment for moisture content in galley ovens, although this raises safety and adequate testing concerns.

Nickel ore is generally loaded at untraditional locations in primitive and archipelago regions, with nothing to keep things dry. It is mined in Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Caledonia and shipped mostly to China for steel making purposes. On average, 26 lives are lost annually on ships that carry bulk cargoes.