Aluminium dross bulk shipment in containers – Explosion incident


Warning of explosive incidents that could occur with shipment of aluminium dross in bulk containers.

The UK P&I Club has reported on the likely dangers of shipping aluminium dross in bulk containers when it is exposed to moisture and call for better pre-shipment controls to contain it.

Aluminium dross is classified as dangerous cargo under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods ( IMDG)  Code and carries an IMO Class 4.3 (substances when in contact with water, emit flammable gases)  bearing UN no. 3170.

An incident occurred,where a container shipment of bulk aluminium dross was damaged beyond repair as a result of explosion. This was possibly caused by build-up gases due to cargo exposure to moisture. This happened despite testing being done which showed unlikely generation of gas to meet this UN Class 4.3 criteria. But it seemed that it can still happen due to the build-up of gases gradually and slowly over a period of time. This could explain the doors and sides of the  container reported in the incident, being blown out as a result of the side panels being deformed, having sufficient force to “ pop”  the container where it is joined to the frame. Additionally, a contributing factor could be not knowing how the product was stored or the weather conditions before or at the time the cargo was placed in the cargo transport unit. Due to the uncertainty of the reactive hazards of the cargo, some lines and ports  are refusing  to take on this cargo.

Advice to Ship operators and shippers : these two parties should work together to ensure that sampling and testing of the cargo for UN Hazard class 4.3 criteria prior to shipment is truly representative of the cargo shipped taking into account the time of testing and packing of cargo.

The BIMCO online Solid Cargo database contains cargo information and carriage requirements of the above-mentioned cargo that is shipped in solid bulk and transported under the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code. As it is an aluminium smelting waste by-product, it is carried under the generic entry of  Bulk Cargo Shipping Name (BSCN) " Aluminium Smelting By-Products or Aluminium Remelting By-products, UN 3170". 

To read the full UK P&I club article, please click here


Ai Cheng Foo-Nielsen
in Copenhagen, DK


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