Gearbulk-Owned Ore Carrier Sinks Off Vietnam

bulk jupiter bulk carrier
Bulk Jupiter, image via Gearbulk

Only one crew member from the 190 meter-long bulk carrier Bulk Jupiter has survived after the ship unexpectedly sank 150 nautical miles off the coast of Vietnam.

According to Gearbulk – the owner of the vessel, she departed fully-loaded with a cargo of 46,400 metric tons of bauxite from Kuantan, Malaysia on 30 December with 19 Filipino crew members.

The Japanese Coast Guard received a distress alert from the vessel at position 9°01’01.0″N, 109°15’26.0″E, however repeated attempts to contact the vessel on all communication channels were unsuccessful.  The following shows the location of where the distress call came:

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A lifeboat and a life raft from Bulk Jupiter were found by the containership M/V Zim Asia, however both were empty. The tug boat M/V OLNG Muttrah, retrieved one surviving crew member who was able to confirm the fate of the vessel.

The search and rescue operation, led by Singapore MRCC, continues and is being stepped up according to a statement by Gearbulk. Two bodies have been recovered, possibly that of the captain of the Bulk Jupiter, however we have not been able to verify and Vietnam’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Center could not provide any confirmation for us.  The survivor, according to local news reports was the chef.

Based on previous incidents such as the loss of the Vinalines Queen, the TransSummer, and other ships over the past few years, it appears likely the ship sank as a result of cargo liquefaction, where a dry cargo is liquefied due to high moisture content. Liquefaction can cause a ship to lose stability due to the internal movement of cargo and is considered a major source of marine casualties.

Bauxite is typically listed in the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC) as a low risk ‘Group C’ cargo, however P&I clubs, such as North P&I Club and The London P&I Club, have in the past warned of the potential for bauxite aluminum ore, mainly from Brazil and Indonesia, to exhibit liquefaction characteristics similar to high-risk Group A cargoes, such as high-profile nickel ore.

Read more: Nickel Ore: Russian Roulette At Sea