World’s Most Dangerous Cargo Eyed in Bulker Sinking Near Hong Kong

Mike Schuler
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August 16, 2013

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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