InterCargo fears for crew of missing bulk carrier Nur Allya

Search and rescue efforts for Nas Allya crew are being undertaken by the Indonesian SAR Agency BASARNAS. Credit: BASARNAS

InterCargo has expressed concerns for the missing 25 crew of the 52,400 dwt bulk carrier Nur Allya. The vessel was carrying a load of nickel ore on route to central Sulawesi when it disappeared on 20 August without word and until recently, without trace.

GTV Indonesia News reported on 3 September that a Nur Allya lifeboat has been found, as well as an oily sheen, sighted near the Obi Islands, Indonesia.

InterCargo issued an alert over the dangers of cargo liquefaction, prompted by the incident.

“Although the cause of the potential casualty [of Nur Allya] is not known and must be established by prompt investigation by the Indonesian Authorities, InterCargo urges all ship owners, operators and seafarers to exercise extreme caution when accepting nickel ore and other cargoes that have the potential to liquefy,” InterCargo warned.

According to DNV GL, the shear strength of liquefaction means cargo such as nickel ore behaves like a “viscous fluid”. If liquefied cargo shifts and slopes toward the side of the cargo hold in synchronisation with the roll motion of the ship, the ship may develop a severe list and capsize abruptly.

InterCargo stressed the importance of adhering to the provisions in the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code) to prevent loss of life at sea.

“Moisture related cargo shifting … continue[s] to be a major concern for dry bulk shipping,” InterCargo said. “It is indeed frustrating to see a lack of consolidated efforts and commitment from all stakeholders including shippers, receivers and port state authorities at load and discharge ports to eliminate the problem and safeguard the lives of innocent seafarers,” it added.

In June 2018, global marine insurer Skuld warned of the prevalence of Indonesian and Philippines nickle ore ships capsizing. Between 2010 and 2017, seven nickel ore carriers sunk, demonstrating the importance of strict compliance with the IMSBC Code and other relevant international conventions, Skuld reported.

Skuld highlighted that global warming extending the rainy season was a key factor behind the sinkings.

The IMSBC Code sets strict guidelines for the carriage of nickel ore, requiring cargo to be properly sampled and tested before loading for water content. However, Skuld noted that the code was rarely complied with.

Shippers’ certificates are forged, shippers and miners are often armed and stand over local surveyors and shippers issuing death threats, dry cargoes are laid onto wet cargo to disguise wet stockpiles, and cargo is loaded in remote areas from barges at anchor. Meanwhile, ships’ masters are under tremendous commercial pressure to accept cargo and not delay operations.

The Indonesian National Shipowners’ Association was contacted for comment.