Damage to Steel Cargos

 In Articles

Roland Orange, Solis Shanghai, considers recent disputes regarding damages to steel cargos loaded in China.

Recently, Solis Marine have increasingly been involved with disputes concerning the loading of steel products; primarily hot and cold rolled sheet steel coils.

The primary causes of the disputes are often relating to cargo hold tank top loading strength, the number of tiers that can be loaded, and the rolled sheet steel coil securing requirements. Whilst these are some of the factors leading to dispute, quite often the underlying cause lies with the chosen port for the loading operations.

Ports in China are becoming increasingly competitive reagarding cargo slots. The move by the Chinese government to increase the air quality in the larger cities means more and more heavy industry is being moved out of the traditional centres, making it just as easy to ship products to newer coastal ports and negating the need for river transits to some of the traditional river ports like Shanghai, Nantong and Nanjing.

To maintain their competitive edge these traditional ports boast about turnaround times and loading rates. Whilst this is appealing to the shipper, the time constraints imposed on the stevedores, loading and lashing gangs, means that loading of steel products can be rushed and carried out to an unacceptable standard. Often, without even the basics of locking coils being used for rolled sheet steel coil cargos.

Figure 1. No locking coils and differing sized sheet steel coils, insufficient and poor dunnage.

Recent cases have highlighted the lack of consideration given to the differing weights of the sheet steel coils and the tendency to over stow heavier coils atop lighter coils. In some cases, smaller coils have even been used as ‘fillers’ to support and stop the movement of heavier coils (see the outer coils at the ship sides of Figure 1 which are deformed).

Gone are the days of similar sized sheet steel coils being shipped to destinations for further refinement at the receiver’s plants. China is now producing sheet steel coils with the correct sheet thickness for direct use. Rolled plate thickness is now being seen at 1 to 2mm but this plate thickness cannot support being loaded to the traditional three tier height without causing deformation to the coils on the lower tier. Conversely coil weights of 25 to 30 tonnes are also being seen, something not considered 10 to 15 years ago when many cargo securing manuals and stability information booklets were prepared for the vessel.

Figure 2: Differing sized rolled sheet steel coils.

There are numerous publications available showing the correct stowing and securing of steel coils, nearly all showing uniform coil sizes and assuming that the loading will be done correctly and without time constraints.

Most vessel cargo securing manuals are just a copy of the IMO publication Code of Safe Practice for Cargo Stowage and Securing, which was last issued in 2011 and in this publication, for sheet steel coil stowage and securing, it is assumed that uniform sized steel coils will be loaded.

Stowage plans provided to the vessel usually have a total weight and number of sheet steel coils to be loaded. Individual coil weights and sheet steel thickness are not usually included, nor are any specific instructions from the shipper.

Charterers are usually responsible for the loading, stowage and securing and as such many crews do not supervise or get involved in the loading operation at all.

Problems, when discovered, are usually seen near completion of loading and when the departure of the vessel is imminent, leaving little time for any corrective measures to be implemented.

For incorrectly stowed sheet steel coils, there is very little that can be done to remedy and make safe the incorrectly loaded cargo, it usually requires unloading and correct re-stowing – a time consuming and costly operation.

Figure 3: When rolled sheet steel coils are incorrectly stowed and secured and the vessel encounters bad weather.

Nearly all stevedores, lashing gangs and port captains are aware of the correct stowage and securing requirements for sheet steel coils but they cannot meet these requirements and comply with the port’s timeline requirement for the loading operation.

Without close monitoring from the ship’s crew, shortcuts are made, and speed of loading can compromise the safe loading and securing of the cargo.

For more information or assistance with steel cargo loading in China please contact Roland Orange orange@solis-marine.com

Roland Orange
Solis Marine Consultants

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