Photo: HKG Flying Service

The Trans Summer sank earlier this week off the coast of Hong Kong during Typhoon Utor. Photo: HKG Flying Service

The 190-meter bulk carrier which sank off the coast of Hong Kong during Typhoon Utor earlier this week has been reported to have been carrying nickel ore, widely regarded as the world’s most dangerous cargo.

As we reported, the Hong Kong-flagged Trans Summer sank Wednesday approximately 45 nautical mile southwest of the city after battling 15-meter waves and strong winds generated by Typhoon Utor. All 21 crewmembers were rescued mostly by helicopter after abandoning the heavily listing ship in liferafts. The Trans Summer eventually rolled over completely and sank some time later.

The sinking of the Trans Summer, built in just 2012, is typical of a slew of recent casualties involving nickel ore shipments, only this time nobody was killed. That particular maritime activity – shipping nickel ore primarily from Indonesia to China – has quickly become one of the most dangerous jobs in the world and the deadliest activity in modern shipping.

The liquefaction of nickel ore cargoes has been cited as the cause of at least four vessel casualties and the loss of 66 seafarers from October 2010 to December of 2011. In all four incidents, it was determined that too much moisture transformed the otherwise sandy ore into an unstable, muddy substance that caused the ships to list and roll over.

Earlier this year, the Harita Bauxite sank in similar fashion off Cape Balinao in the South China Sea while carrying 47,450 metric tons of nickel ore in her holds. Fifteen of her 24 were crewmembers were killed.

As a result, INTERCARGO, which represents the interests of more than 160 dry cargo ship owners and operators, has since named nickel ore “the world’s most dangerous cargo” and efforts are underway at the IMO to strengthen the International Maritime Solid Bulk Code (IMSBC), which regulates the loading and transport of bulk cargoes.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency said that the Trans Summer was carrying 57,000 tons of nickel ore when she sank, according to a report by the Associated Press.

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  • Zarir

    Carried this cargo as part of the maiden voyage of a bulker back in 2004. Loaded in Philippines, this stuff was closer to watery mud than powder and would pile up in the center of the holds if not spread evenly across the holds. Needless to say, enroute to discharge port in Australia, we developed a sudden 5 degree list caused by the shifting of the cargo.
    While we did all the subsequent actions by the book, on seeing all these casualties attributed to pretty much the same thing, I do wonder how lightly the whole affair was taken in those days..
    Scary stuff !!

  • Geologist

    If the nickel ore moisture level is too high, it has the potential for liquifaction to occur. A good visual comparison might be found in the fascinating video of “quick clays” and the Rissa, Norway liquifaction disaster: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3q-qfNlEP4A

    • HUGH JANUS

      JAPAN ? YOU MEAN THE SAME FINE FOLKS THAT BROUGHT US PEARL HARBOR?

    • Joe

      If you are referring to Fukushima, the radiation leaking into the ocean is not a risk to the oceans, or the world, at large. Unless, of course, its scent wakes up Godzilla.

      • http://www.gypsyblondemedia.com L. Jaye Bell

        Joe, in reference to your comment, actually, it’s doing a great deal of damage. California’s birth rates have dropped significantly after Fukishima; as have. This means it isn’t just about eating the fish, what you eat and breathe on the west coast is also potentially affected.

  • rubicondsrv

    perhaps this and other readily liquified cargoes should be shipped using ships fitted with baffles in the holds to reduced sloshing?

    • HUGH JANUS

      NO..YORU’RE SAD…BITCH…

  • DonM

    I think that these vessels should be required to transport nickel in the same manner as other metal products. Ahem, pellets would be more stable.

  • LarryD

    Problem is the loaders in Indonesia and the end users in China are not going to drop a yen to process the ore either by drying or pelitize it to make it more stable for shipment. They want it cheap and the human cost is not a factor at all to them.
    The only reason this is news is that it is a brand new ship that sunk with-in 45 miles of Hong Kong.

  • Damn Yankee

    Sounds like a ship problem to me. Design a bulker with intercostals and; dare I say it; WATERTIGHT cargo hatches!!! That being said, having hit 13 meter seas in the past, 15 meters on a bulker that can only make 13 knots on a good day is not going to work out for anyone.

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