Bulk Cargoes: A Guide to Good Practice

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Number of Pages:
Book Height:
210 mm
Book Width:
148 mm
0.7 kg
Published Date:
August 2019
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This publication is a guide to the safe loading, carriage and unloading of bulk cargoes.

This publication contains best practice guidance for the safe loading, carriage and unloading of bulk cargoes. It covers:

  • Regulations, recommendations and guidance for general cargo
  • bulk cargo specific rules and regulations
  • operations and maintenance (including preparation, loading and discharge)
  • hazards
  • cargo specific information (including coal, cement, iron ore and seed cake)
  • records and documentation.

For more than 100 years some cargoes such as grain and coal have been shipped around the world in bulk. The range of cargoes carried in bulk has increased dramatically during recent decades, rising to over 3 billion tonnes a year. The types of bulk cargoes carried − in addition to grain and coal − now include animal foodstuffs, fertilizers, mineral concentrates and ores, scrap metal and biofuels such as wood pellets. The vast majority of bulk cargo voyages are completed without incident but there have been many occasions when things have not gone to plan. In some instances the cargo suffered damage but there was no harm done to the ship or the crew. On other occasions the ship suffered damage as a result of the cargo shifting. Unfortunately some ships have been lost with all hands because of problems with the cargo or because of defects or damage to the ship.

Along with the huge variety of bulk cargoes, masters of ships that carry them need to contend with a wide range of hold cleanliness, cargo care and cargo carriage requirements. Each type presents the master with a different set of problems. In addition, loading and unloading operations must be monitored closely to ensure the correct procedures are followed. Problems associated with care and carriage of bulk cargoes include possible shifting, either because it has not been stowed correctly or because it has been loaded with too high a moisture content. Chemical reactions within cargo, such as emission of toxic or flammable gases, spontaneous heating that might lead to combustion or severe corrosive effects, can occur at any time during the voyage. Also, if cargo is loaded or unloaded unevenly, the ship might be structurally damaged during loading or unloading or during the voyage, particularly if part of the cargo shifts. In addition, the master must ensure weather-deck hatch covers are in satisfactory condition, cargo compartments are cleaned and maintained to the standard required for the cargo to be loaded, and the ship is fitted for carriage of the specific cargo.

During carriage of a bulk cargo the crew should monitor its condition and the atmosphere in the head space above it as required, ensuring at all times correct procedures are followed for safety of personnel. When ballast water is used, this should be managed to ensure there is the required amount of ballast on board, structural limits are not exceeded, ballast water is pumped in and out in accordance with loading and unloading procedures, and it is exchanged or treated during ocean voyages. Other operations and procedures requiring proper management include fumigation of cargo, measurement of cargo on board and use of grabs and ship’s gear.

This guide explains basic rules to be remembered on every occasion during loading, carriage and unloading of bulk cargoes. It describes where various regulations, recommendations and general guidance can be found, and discusses procedures, preparations and good seamanship practice for appropriate and safe carriage of cargoes in bulk. It also describes the problems and recommended procedures associated with particular types of bulk cargo, and then gives some guidance on points to be remembered during passage planning and the voyage itself. It is not intended the guide will give all information necessary to carry each and every product and commodity. To do so would require inclusion of all appropriate codes and guides published for all cargoes. Instead, it sets out basics and points to publications which give the rules to be followed, and sets out guidance and recommendations with regard to problems and questions often encountered by masters of ships carrying bulk commodities.

Chapter VI of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, as amended, gives requirements for carriage of all cargoes in three parts: general provisions, special provisions for bulk cargoes other than grain, and carriage of grain. The regulations refer to codes of practice published by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The latest version of each appropriate code must be on board and code procedures and requirements must be followed completely on each and every occasion.

Despite there being codes of safe practice and publications giving advice on loading, unloading and carriage of bulk cargoes, incidents continue to occur. During these incidents damage is sustained by the cargo or by the ship and/or the people on board are injured. It has been recognised for some time that, when ship’s staff have greater knowledge and are more aware of hazards, those hazards can be minimised or avoided and accidents can be prevented. The object of this guide is to increase seafarers’ knowledge of things acting on cargo operations and carriage, of basic requirements for bulk shipment operations, and of relevant codes and guidelines. The overall objective is to aid loss prevention.

Chapter 2 includes some basic information and pointers to where regulations, recommendations and guidance can be found, and Chapter 3 gives more specific information about and guidance on IMO publications that affect the operation of ships carrying bulk commodities. Chapter 4 describes the various operations that take place on board and Chapter 5 sets out the routine procedures which must be followed if the cargo is to be carried without significant problems being encountered.

Chapter 6 provides general information and guidance on types of cargoes and their specific hazards, after which Chapter 7 looks at a number of commodities which have their own specific problems and requirements. Each of those commodities, and their particular problems, is described. Guidance is given on hold preparation, loading, carriage, discharge and subsequent cleaning operations.

The voyage is dealt with in Chapter 8. For each part of a voyage, in sequence, operations are discussed, any associated problems are highlighted and the possible outcomes of failure to carry out tasks properly are described. Required and seamanlike procedures are set out in ‘Loss prevention action’. This arrangement of the information is intended for ease of use and there are references to sections of Chapters 2 and 7 for more detailed guidance.

1. Introduction

2. General Information

3. Safety, Rules and Regulations

4. Operations and Maintenance

5. Identification, Care and Carriage

6. Understanding the Hazards

7. Cargo-Specific Information

8. The Voyage

9. Guide to Basic Records



NorthStandard is one of the leading providers of global marine insurance products and services across the maritime industries. Established through the merger of North P&I Club and the Standard Club in February 2023, NorthStandard brings together over 300 years of marine insurance heritage.

From headquarters in the UK and with offices throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas, NorthStandard offers a unique blend of worldwide presence and class-leading expertise across multiple specialist areas, including P&I, FD&D, War Risks, Strike & Delay, Hull and Machinery and ancillary insurance. Its Sunderland Marine and Coastal & Inland divisions also provide cover for owners’ fixed premium P&I, fishing vessels, inland waterway and coastal trading vessels and aquaculture. NorthStandard’s comprehensive local market and sector knowledge is underpinned by continuous investments in market-leading digital technologies.

NorthStandard is a leading member of the International Group of P&I Clubs (IG) and is fully committed to upholding the shared objectives of its 12 independent member clubs, which provide liability cover for approximately 90% of the world’s ocean-going tonnage.

Number of Pages:
Binding Format:
Book Height:
210 mm
Book Width:
148 mm
0.7 kg
Published Date:
August 2019