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Live from SMM Hamburg

ClassNK steps up R&D on ‘world’s most dangerous cargo'

ClassNK steps up R&D on ‘world’s most dangerous cargo'
ClassNK is intensifying its efforts to better understand the process of cargo liquefaction at sea to improve bulk carrier safety, by embarking on a joint R&D effort with leading European research bodies.

In the case of nickel ore, liquefaction is thought to have caused stability problems leading to the capsize and loss of at least 10 ships and as many as 250 seafarer lives during the period 2007-2011, making it “the world’s most dangerous cargo”, according to the Japanese class society.

Announced at SMM the R&D project called LiquefAction, expands on work that ClassNK has been carrying out in recent months with the Hamburg Ship Model Basin (HSVA). Also now joining the project are Hamburg University of Technology (TUH) and France’s Ecole Central de Nantes (ECN) and Institute of Science and Technology for Transport, Development and Networks (IFSTTAR). Additional support is being supplied by German shipowner Oldendorff Carriers.

ClassNK’s central role in the project follows the Japanese class society’s rapid expansion in Europe over the past six years, during which time it has opened 10 new European offices and established a Survey Operations Headquarters in its Hamburg office.

ClassNK chairman and president Noburo Ueda said: “Our goal is to support the safe growth and development of the maritime industry, not only in Japan or Asia, but in Europe and all around the world.”

During the Q&A session following the announcement, it was explained that poor quality cargoes containing a relatively small percentage of nickel ore tend to be the main offenders in terms of excessive liquid content, their low value meaning it was not economic to dry them properly. Indeed, Seatrade Global was later told that some unscrupulous operators even deliberately increase the iron ore content in order to declare the cargo as such, thereby avoiding the more stringent safety checks required for nickel ore.

ClassNK issued the first version of its award-winning Guidelines for the Safe Carriage of Nickel Ore in response to the emerging problem of liquefaction in May 2011, followed by a second version in March 2012. A third version is now planned following completion of the new R&D project, expected to take around two years.