SMART4SEA Conference & Awards
2018
Learn More
SMART4SEA Conference & Awards
2018
Learn More

Lessons learned from liquefaction incident response

cargo

Elias Psyllos, Business development Director, T&T Salvage, gave a presentation regarding “Lessons learned from Liquefaction Incident Response” during the 2016 SAFETY4SEA Conference & Awards, focusing on two different nickel ore liquefaction cases with vessel in distress in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea in which his company has been recently involved. He explained the method that his company followed; salvage teams equipped with appropriate salvage assets mobilized from the company’s international salvage base in Singapore, Asia to attend the casualties on of them aground at an iconic beach with the threat of an environmental disaster imminent if the vessel was not immediately afloat. In both cases, T&T’s salvage engineering teams developed a salvage plan to reposition the vessels in a port of refuge and thereafter regain their respective trading abilities. This method, he stated, has received praise from industry engineering experts as well as the insurance industry for finding a solution to a chronic problem in the specific ore trade.

T&T Salvage was involved in the response of two liquefaction incidents facing many challenges regarding the techniques and the difficulties with respect to remote locations. In the majority, the response of a liquefaction incident needs to take place in the most remote locations and determine where to discharge the cargo in order to avoid environmental damage and secure a place of refuge.

Nickel ore is mined in over 23 countries in the world.  Amongst the list of nickel ore producing countries in the world, Philippines, Indonesia, Australia and New Caledonia are the top few producers in term of tonnage exporting to China.

INTERCARGO Bulk Carrier Casualty Report 2015, has reported a loss of 102 seafarers and 11 vessel for the years 2005 to 2015 due to liquefaction incidents. 

There have been mandatory codes and guidelines; specifically, IMO, Classification Society, P&I and the bulk cargo shipping industry/ Organization have published mandatory code, guidelines and checklist for acceptance of suitable/safe cargoes with moisture content within the threshold of transportable moisture limit (TML) as a margin of safety for loading and sea transportation. These are the organizations that we had to deal with, all the response has to be monitored and approved by flag state, by class and basically two different ships, two different classes.

Incident #1 – Overview

  • An actual incident occurred in year 2015.
  • Size Category – Handymax (55,562 metric ton  deadweight)
  • Laden with unprocessed nickel ore in bulk.
  • Encounter Heavy weather.
  • Liquefaction occurred during the voyage from her loading port Philippines to China.
  • 13,500BHP tug mobilized for escort (if necessary, towage) to nearest port of refuge.
  • Heavy weather (Typhoon Season).
  • Captain issued order to abandon ship.
  • Crew were rescued by tug. Sad to cite one crew member perished during rescue effort, reportedly due to heart seizure.
  • Subsequently , drifted aground off the coast of Candon, Ilocos Sur, Philippines with a starboard list of about 17.5

Incident #2 – Overview

  • A second incident occurred in year 2016.
  • Size Category – Handymax (55,562 metric ton  deadweight)
  • Laden with unprocessed nickel ore in bulk.
  • Encounter Heavy weather.
  • Liquefaction occurred during the voyage from her loading port Philippines to Australia.
  • Captain seeks Port of Refuge in Papua New Guinea.
  • Options to discharge cargo under safe conditions in sheltered port area.
  • Subsequently, local proprietors intervene and after continuous stoppages block the discharge.
  • 14,000BHP tug mobilized for tow the vessel to offshore dumping area.

Cargo Status

No.1 Hold

  • Surficial layer appears to be wet, slurry and compacted.
  • High moisture content, standing water pool can be seen at port aft end of the hold. 
  • Cargo liquefied and shifted to toward starboard.
  • Cargo shift estimated to be about 18° average.

No.2 Hold

  • Surficial layer appears to be slurry and compacted.
  • High moisture content, standing water pool can be seen at port aft end of the hold. 
  • Cargo liquefied and shifted to toward starboard.
  • Cargo shift estimated to be about 13° average.

No.3 Hold

  • Partial liquefaction. 
  • Liquefaction observed around the forward bulkhead #2/#3 & starboard side about ½ the length of the hold.
  • The rest of the surficial layer appear to be clumpy.
  • Cargo shifted toward starboard.
  • Cargo shit estimated to be about 5° average.

No.4 Hold

  • Surficial layer appears relatively dry, clumpy and stable.
  • No visible trace of standing water pool.
  • No visible sign of liquefaction.

No.5 Hold

  • Surficial layer appears relatively dry, clumpy and stable.
  • No visible trace of standing water pool.
  • No visible sign of liquefaction.

If you look at the moisture test levels before loading and after loading the cargo, you may see significant differences. Following the liquefaction incidents, naval architects worked on the response plan. To rearrange her homogeneous stowage plan on board into alternate loading arrangement, with No.1, No.3 and No.5 cargo hold loaded and having No.2 and No.4 cargo hold empty, the principle is to reclaim her intact stability to stable equilibrium and further enhance her intact stability resistance in response to liquefaction effect or cumulative heeling before freeing her from the support of the seafloor and a subsequent tow ocean voyage to her port of refuge. So, the best solution they could come with to manage to get the vessel in a state of transport, was to shift the cargo from homogeneous to alternative loading; after the operation cargoes 1,3 and 5 were loaded almost 83% leaving some of the cargoes empty. One reason for that action was because we wanted to minimize the risk from the whole vessel to just three holds that we could have loaded alternatively. Also, in the second response incident that we had in Papa New Guinea, we took the vessel out and dumped the cargo at sea. Therefore, we didn’t risk our pumps whose capacity was molasses and fuel oil, so it was easy for us to extract as much water as we could in case of emergency. In general, we never took any risk of using our resources.

We faced difficulties in finding remote locations due to the limited asset resources and skilled personnel. The discharge of the cargo was determined to commence at a designated land field in first case whereas in second case in the middle of the sea, again at a designated offshore location.

In conclusion, when unsuitable/ unsafe unprocessed nickel ore cargo exceeding the threshold of transportable moisture limit is loaded on board, vessel motion, vibration and environmental loading at sea will result in liquefaction incident. Evaluation result has evidently disclosed alternate loading arrangement to enhance transverse stability resistance in response to liquefaction effect. Further research work for safe carriage of unprocessed nickel ore in bulk at sea is necessary for this industry.

Above text is an edited article of Elias Psyllos presentation during the 2016 SAFETY4SEA Conference & Awards

You may view his video presentation by clicking here

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.

Elias Psyllos, Business development Director, T&T Salvage

elias-psyllosElias Psyllos is the Commercial Manager of T&T Salvage based in Houston Texas. He is responsible for commercial, legal, and technical support to daily global company operations. He supports business development and client relationship management activities. He also oversees internal insurance and risk management matters to include policy management and claims reporting and acts as Project Manager on company operations.

Prior experience includes 15 years as a Risk Manager for a London-Greek Shipowning Group. He was overall responsible for the Group’s Marine Insurance and claims. For 4 years he served as a member of the Group’s Marine Operations Team, actively involved in the management of Oil Tanker and Bulk Carrier fleets.  

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