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Coping with the new code
Originally published:  01/02/2011
The International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code became mandatory as of January 1, 2011, replacing the Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC Code). The new Code sets responsibilities on shippers although, as ever, ships’ masters are advised to check any information they are given. The new Code also includes some training provisions.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) published a useful Marine Notice (19/2010) just before the IMSBC Code came into effect. In it, AMSA notes that the shipper must provide the master with current valid information on the physical and chemical properties of the cargo prior to loading. This should include the information outlined in Section 4 of the Code, and specifically the Bulk Cargo Shipping Name (BCSN). While the onus to provide this information is on the shipper, AMSA says it may be necessary to test bulk cargoes to determine their chemical and physical properties. Test procedures may be found in Appendix 2 of the IMSBC Code and Part 2 of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.
Those cargoes specifically listed in Appendix 1 of the IMSBC Code must be carried in accordance with the relevant schedule in the Code. However, the schedules in Appendix 1 are not exhaustive and the shipper may need to obtain approval from the competent authorities of the flag state, the port of loading and/or the port of discharge.
IMO is still addressing how to deal with environmentally hazardous substances (EHS) in the IMSBC Code. However, Section 4 of the Code requires that any EHS cargo is identified in the information provided to the master. AMSA says this should take the form of classification under UN 3077 if environmental hazard is the primary risk, or by the use of the term ‘marine pollutant’ on the shipping document. The ports of loading and unloading may set additional requirements and restrictions on cargo handling for such cargoes, and masters are advised to pay particular attention to the condition of hatch covers and cargo holds.
The IMSBC Code will be revised every two years; each new edition will become mandatory on January 1 of an odd-numbered year (whereas the IMDG Code becomes mandatory in even-numbered years). Amendment 1 to the IMSBC Code has already been finalised by IMO’s Dangerous Goods, Solid Cargoes and Containers (DSC) Sub-committee and will be considered by the Maritime Safety Committee this coming May; it will be published later this year for voluntary application as from January 1, 2012.
Meanwhile, training providers have been active in arranging classroom and online courses for those who find themselves subject to the requirements of the IMSBC Code. Videotel has issued the first part of a two-part video, Dangerous and Difficult Bulk Cargoes, which supports the IMSBC Code and introduces the hazards that are covered by the Code. A second part, due out in spring of this year, will highlight the physical dangers to the ship that such cargoes can represent and offer effective risk management strategies. Norway-based maritime training specialist Seagull AS has also issued an IMSBC Code training module, developed in cooperation with experts from South Tyneside College in the UK. Seagull’s computer-based training module – a complete revision of its existing BC Code module – introduces best practice and sets out optimum safety measures for the loading, discharge and carriage of those solid bulk cargoes that present hazards.