MV Cheshire Casualty Report Points to Fertilizer Shipping Hazards

MV Cheshire

The Isle of Man Ship Registry, the flag administration of M/V Cheshire, has published the Casualty Investigation Report on overheating incident of the fertilizer which was being carried on board the bulk carrier a year ago.

The vessel experienced elevated temperatures in its cargo holds 4 and 5 on August 12, 2017, while underway south of Gran Canaria, heading from Norway to Thailand.

M/V Cheshire was fully loaded with cargo declared by the shipper as being “Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizer (Non-hazardous)” and not liable to self-sustaining decomposition. However, the cargo suffered decomposition that led to rising temperatures in the cargo holds and the generation of toxic gases.

The decomposition progressed throughout the length of the vessel to such an extent that, after several days, the vessel’s Master took the decision to evacuate the crew. The vessel was then left to drift under the supervision of the Spanish Authorities until being salvaged.

Due to extensive damage, the vessel was declared a constructive total loss.

The casualty report says that it is needed to change the misleading cargo name from “Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizer (non-hazardous)” to “Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizer (not otherwise classified)” and that the fertilizer manufacturers should provide further information on the behaviour and carriage of this cargo.

The report also indicates that it should be reviewed whether the current IMO-stipulated test for assessment of self-sustaining decomposition properties of an ammonium nitrate based fertilizer is adequate.

Ammonium Nitrate Based Fertilizer (non-hazardous) is currently designated in the IMSBC Code as a group C cargo. These are cargoes that that do not liquefy (group A) nor possess chemical hazards (group B).

“It is clear from this incident that this cargo, or at least some of the ammonium nitrate based fertilizers shipped as this cargo, should not be treated as group C. It is Intercargo’s hope that future work at the IMO will lead to the correct designation and description of this cargo within the IMSBC Code, thus furthering the safer carriage of cargoes and safer voyages,” the International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (Intercargo) said commenting on the findings.

The report further recommends that specialist equipment should be provided on board the vessel, that the crew should monitor the cargo atmosphere, and that specific procedures should be developed for the carriage of this cargo.

“It is Intercargo’s strong opinion that these additional precautions, which are being called upon to be the responsibility of the vessel, ought to be unnecessary if the cargo is group C. (…) It is Intercargo’s belief that accurate cargo information, provided by the shipper, is the cornerstone for the safe carriage of bulk cargoes,” the association added.

Image Courtesy: Bibby Line/MTI Network