UK: New BIMCO Solid Bulk Cargoes Clause

Last Updated: 6 August 2012
Article by Martyn Haines

The ability of owners and charterers to adequately address some of the difficult issues posed by the carriage of solid bulk cargoes that may liquefy has been enhanced by the new Charterparty BIMCO Clause issued on 25 July 2012.

The dangers associated with the carriage of solid bulk cargoes that may liquefy are well known. There have been many occurrences of vessels losing stability and capsizing on a laden voyage and sadly in some cases, the loss of crew lives.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has reflected the seriousness of this potential hazard through the issuance of guidelines in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Chapter VI Carriage of Cargoes, and in the Codes International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) and the Code of Practice for the Safe Loading and Unloading of Bulk Cargoes (BLU Code).

Under these guidelines it is the responsibility of the shipper to provide the Master or his representative with the appropriate information on the cargo at a sufficiently early stage in loading to enable the necessary precautions for the proper stowage and safe carriage of the cargo to be put into effect. Even though the guidelines require that cargo information is supported by a written and signed declaration by the shipper, there have been instances of misdeclaration, inaccurate and fraudulent information being passed to the Master.

Whilst not relieving the shipper of his obligation under the IMSBC, the Master is expected to visually inspect the cargo prior to and during loading. If he has any doubts regarding the condition and characteristics of the cargo, the Master is encouraged to employ an independent surveyor to take representative samples and stop further loading until moisture content analysis of the cargo has been obtained.

The decision to stop a loading operation is a difficult one given the potential exposure of the owners to financial as well as contractual consequences, especially if it is found that the delay was unjustified. The Master may also be exposed to local threats if loading is prevented and sampling of a cargo on board may be refused.

It is with these concerns in mind that BIMCO has worked together with the International Group of P&I Clubs and produced a new standard clause entitled "The BIMCO Solid Bulk Cargoes that can liquefy Clause for Charterparties".

Key elements of the Clause are:

  • Charterers shall ensure the cargo is loaded in compliance with the International Regulations including IMSBC
  • Charterers shall provide cargo information prior to commencement of loading
  • Owners have the right to take samples prior to and during loading
  • Sampling and testing shall be at the charterers risk, cost, expense and time
  • The Master shall have the right to refuse to accept the cargo or, if already loaded, to refuse to sail from the loading port
  • The Master has a right to require the charterers to make safe the cargo and offload the cargo at the charterers risk, cost, expense and time

The International Group of P&I Clubs has provided a considerable amount of loss prevention material regarding this difficult issue to its members already. The BIMCO clause will supplement this advice, and provides an additional option to parties negotiating charterparties where clarification of the rights and responsibilities relating to the safe carriage of this type of cargo is likely to be an issue. The full wording of the clause can be found on the BIMCO website here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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