Amendment 03-15 to the IMSBC Code and the BIMCO Solid Cargo Database


Amendment 03-15 to the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code becomes mandatory effective 1 January 2017.  

What are the changes under Amendment 03-15 (Amdt 03-15)?

The changes are as follows: 

1. New Provisions for cargoes that may liquefy

There is a new provision allowing specially constructed cargo ships that are designed and constructed solely to carry dry powdery cargoes (new section 7.3.3). These ships can handle these cargoes by means of closed type systems using pneumatic equipment that enables cargo to be protected from the weather.

Another new provision is also a waiver of certain requirements for specially constructed or fitted cargo ship for confining cargo shift or a specially constructed ship for dry powdery cargoes that are carrying cargoes that may liquefy.  For example, such ships do not have to supply cargo information or certificates required for transportable moisture limit (TML), moisture content and wet base formation (sections,, 4.3.2 to 4.3.5) or conduct sampling and testing of TML and moisture content (section 4.5, 4.6 and section 8). 

2. New section 14 entitled “Prevention of Pollution by cargo residues from ships”

This is a new section which is non-mandatory. This section addresses the additional requirements that solid bulk cargoes have to comply with for their cargo residues, under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships (MARPOL) and the 2012 Guidelines for the Implementation of MARPOL Annex V (Garbage)

The main requirement is that the shipper has the responsibility to classify and declare his solid bulk cargo as to whether it is harmful to the marine environment or not (HME cargo) . The said declaration has to be included as part of the information required under section 4 of the IMSBC Code. 

Residues of HME cargoes must be discharged at a port reception facility. Residues of non-HME cargoes can only be disposed at sea provided relevant provisions of MARPOL Annex V are satisfied.

3. New Cargo Information/declaration required from Shipper

Cargo information required to be furnished by the shipper under section 4.2 of the IMSBC Code will now include information on whether the cargo is HME or not in accordance with MARPOL requirements. The cargo declaration form to be completed and signed by the shipper will also require such declaration therein.

4. Materials hazardous only in bulk (MHB)

A new notational hazard reference system has been introduced under Amdt 03-15 for MHB cargoes. This is for the purpose of better identifying exactly the specific hazards as listed above for the MHB cargo in question. Apart from the six hazards mentioned above, the new notational reference system has introduced another hazard simply known as “Other hazard”. This is to capture other chemical hazards not identified anywhere else in the MHB classification criteria but needs to be taken into account based on human experience or other factors.

New Notational Hazard Reference System

This new notational hazard reference system will affect only the new cargoes under Amdt 03-15 and onwards. The existing MHB cargoes in the IMSBC Code will remain unchanged and  these cargoes will only adopt such notational listing upon official submissions made to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to do the same.

These new notational listings will accompany the “MHB” designation under the “Class” section of the individual cargo schedules, e.g. Boric acid;  its class will show “MHB (TX)”. Note that the class section is mandatory.

5.New cargoes 

There are 18 new cargoes introduced as part of the Amdt 03-15 to the IMSBC Code. 

Amdt  03-15 -  New Cargoes

The new cargoes with their official Bulk Cargo Shipping Name (BCSN), together with their respective group classification under the IMSBC Code are as follows:
 Aluminium Fluoride   Group A 
 Amorphous Sodium Silicate Lumps, Group B/MHB(CR)  Group B/MHB(CR)
 Boric Acid  Group B/MHB (TX)
 Chemical Gypsum  Group A
 Copper Slag  Group A 
 Glass Cullet  Group C 
 Iron and Steel Slag and its Mixture  Group A 
 Iron Ore Fines  Group A 
 Iron Oxide Technical  Group A
 Iron Sinter  Group C
 Manganese Component Ferroalloy Slag  Group C
 Manganese Ore Fines  Group A
 Scale generated from the Iron and Steel Making Process  Group A
 Spodumene (Upgraded)  Group A  
 Wood Pellets containing Additives and /or Binders Group B/MHB (WF)
 Wood Pellets not containing any additives and/or Binders  Group B/MHB (OH) 
 Zinc Slag  Group A
 Zircon Kyanite Concentrate  Group A

Explanatory Notes: 

  • Group A cargoes are those that may liquefy if shipped at a moisture content in excess of their transportable moisture limit (TML) 
  • Group B cargoes are cargoes which possess a chemical hazard which could give rise to a dangerous situation on a ship. 
  • Group C cargoes are cargoes which are neither liable to liquefy  (Group A ) nor possess chemical hazards (Group B) 
  • Group A and B cargo – cargo that may liquefy and possess chemical hazards
  • MHB – materials hazardous only in bulk with their specific MHB  hazard (s) in brackets. 

Due to the 2 new “wood pellets” entries with and without binders, the existing cargo entry “wood pellets” is deleted under the Amendment 03-15. 

6. New  Group A “Iron Ore Fines” schedule, changes to existing Group C “Iron ore” schedule and new testing procedure for Iron Ore Fines 

Based on extensive research conducted by Australia and Brazil and peer-reviewed by industry organisations including BIMCO and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO),  new criteria distinguishing Group A iron ore cargoes from Group C ones. 

The criteria are goethite content or particle size distribution as follows:

1) If the iron ore contains 35% or more by mass of goethite content, it can be classified as a Group C iron ore as long as there is a shipper’s declaration of the same and the determination of its content is done according to internationally or nationally accepted standard procedures.

2) If the iron ore contains more than 10%  of fine particles passing the 1mm mark or more than 50% of particles passing the 10mm mark or both, it can be classified as a Group C cargo.

Therefore, a Group A iron ore fines will be one that is either having goethite content less than 35% or having both particle size distribution of 10% or more of fine particles having less than 1mm and 50% or more of particles having less than 10mm.  

The research also resulted in the development of a new testing procedure (Modified Proctor /Fagerberg ) that is to be used only for iron ore fines cargoes

7. Self-unloading bulk carriers – new requirement

With self-unloading bulk carriers having internally installed conveyor systems, on board operational fire safety risk assessments are required to be conducted by the ship’s crew and such assessments are to be part of the ship’s safety management system.

The BIMCO Solid Cargo database has been updated to cover all the above new entries.

Ai Cheng Foo-Nielsen
in Copenhagen, DK


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