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Guidelines for the safe carriage of Nickel Ore in the Philippines by Standard Club

Pandiman Philippines Inc. is very proud to contribute to the article with regards to the Philippines.

The Philippines

Nickel ore is used to produce stainless steel and is very much

a part of modern life. China is the largest importer and the

Philippines provides up to 30m WMT (wet metric ton) of this

demand a year. Many articles have been written on the danger

of liquefaction from nickel ore; however, the practical issue that

should be borne in mind with nickel ore cargo loaded from the

Philippines is that the cargo is inherently wet. Whatever the

reason, the local climate has changed from 25 years ago, when

there was a clear distinction between the dry and rainy season.

Today, in the areas of the southern Philippines where nickel ore

is loaded, it rains all year round.

Surigao and the surrounding islands are the most popular

locations for loading nickel ore. The port of Surigao, a small

provincial port, has no loading facilities. The actual loading will

most likely take place at Adlay, Carrascal, over 40 nautical miles

away. This can lead to confusion, especially when masters are

expecting a port with a pier and loading facilities. The waters

around this area are subject to strong rip tides. Several loaded

vessels have run aground in Dinagat Sound, so masters of

loaded vessels should navigate with extreme caution and

consider a more prudent departure to open ocean to the east.

These areas of nickel ore production are in extremely remote

areas, where the mining is open cast and the nickel ore is

stockpiled on the shore and thereby exposed to the elements.

The nickel ore is transferred from the stockpiles by barge to a

vessel normally anchored a mile or more offshore. Due to there

being no actual facilities, the trade utilises Handymax size

vessels, which can self-load the cargo via ship’s grabs. A normal

shipment is 55,000mt. Two decades ago, in the dry season, this

could be loaded in seven days. However, with the change in

climate, the average time is now three weeks or more.

It is therefore necessary to ensure that the cargo certificates

remain valid throughout the loading process. If rainfall occurs

prior to or during loading, the master should request that new

moisture content tests are carried out. If there are any concerns

or doubts about the validity of the moisture content, the master

should ensure that loading operations are suspended until newly

updated information about the cargo has been received.

Length of voyage should never be a defining factor in deciding if

a cargo is suitable to carry. It should also be remembered that

the IMSBC code clearly states the limitations of the can test, and

even a satisfactory can test does not mean that a cargo of nickel

ore complies with the IMSBC code and is safe to carry. The

human eye is also insufficient in determining whether a cargo

complies with the IMSBC code. The only way to ensure that the

cargo is compliant is through analysis carried out under correct

protocols. Comparisons of certificates issued by the local mines

with independent analysis of samples undertaken abroad show a

significant difference, with errors of between 8% and 10% in

FMP (flow moisture point).

In 2019, nearly half of the 31 registered nickel ore mines in the

Philippines were suspended either due to administrative or

environmental issues. With the ban on nickel ore export from

1 January 2020 in Indonesia, this will further strain the

Philippines to fill demand. Regarding the reliance on certificates

issued by local mines, on every occasion when we have sent

samples for independent analysis due to concerns about the

moisture content, the mines’ certificates have failed.

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Also view this article on our Survey Specialists Inc. link website below.



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