A.862(20) Code of Practice for the Safe Loading and Unloading of Bulk Carriers



   Resolution A.862(20)




(Adopted on 27 November 1997)




RECALLING Article 15(j) of the Convention on the International Maritime Organization concerning the functions of the Assembly in relation to regulations and guidelines concerning maritime safety,


RECALLING FURTHER that, by resolutions A.713(17) and A.797(19), it adopted measures to improve the safety of ships carrying solid bulk cargoes,


RECALLING ALSO that, in adopting resolution A.797(19), it requested the Maritime Safety Committee to carry out, with high priority, its work on the safety of ships carrying solid bulk cargoes and to develop, as soon as possible, requirements and recommendations covering survivability standards, design and construction standards, management and training, operational standards, survey requirements and ship/shore interface aspects,


NOTING that, by resolution MSC.47(66), the Maritime Safety Committee, at its sixty-sixth session, adopted amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, to include a revised regulation 7 of chapter VI dealing with loading and unloading of bulk cargo,


NOTING FURTHER the approval by the Maritime Safety Committee, at its sixty-sixth session, of MSC/Circ.743 on communications between maritime Administrations and port authorities, whereby Governments in whose territories solid bulk cargo loading and unloading terminals are situated are invited to introduce port by-laws complying with operative paragraph 5 of that circular,


BEING CONCERNED at the continued loss of ships carrying solid bulk cargoes, sometimes without a trace, and the heavy loss of life incurred,


BEARING IN MIND that a number of accidents have occurred as a result of improper loading and unloading of bulk carriers and that the development of safe loading and unloading practices can prevent such accidents occurring in the future,


RECOGNIZING the need to improve the safe loading and unloading of bulk carriers,


RECOGNIZING FURTHER that such improvement could be achieved by the establishment of a composite code of practice for the safe loading and unloading of bulk carriers,


BELIEVING that the application of such a code of safe practice would enhance maritime safety,


HAVING CONSIDERED the recommendation made by the Maritime Safety Committee at its sixty-sixth and sixty-eighth sessions,


1. ADOPTS the Code of Practice for the Safe Loading and Unloading of Bulk Carriers, set out in the annex to the present resolution;


2. URGES Governments to implement this Code at the earliest possible opportunity and to inform IMO of any non-compliance;


3. FURTHER URGES Governments in whose territories solid bulk cargo loading and unloading terminals are situated, to introduce port by-laws to the effect that:


.1 terminal operators are required to comply with the relevant IMO codes and recommendations on ship/port co-operation;


.2 terminal operators are required to appoint a "terminal representative" as stipulated in section 1.6 of the annex to resolution A.797(19);


.3 the master is responsible at all times for the safe loading and unloading of the ship, the details of which should be confirmed with the terminal operator in the form of an agreed loading or unloading plan;


.4 in case of non-compliance with the agreed loading or unloading plans or any other situation which endangers the safety of the ship, the master has the right to stop the loading or unloading; and


.5 port authorities have the right to stop the loading or unloading of solid bulk cargoes when the safety of the ship carrying such cargoes is endangered.


4. REQUESTS the Maritime Safety Committee to keep this Code under review and to amend it, as necessary;


5. REVOKES MSC/Circ.690 and DSC/Circ.3.








1. This Code of Practice for the Safe Loading and Unloading of Bulk Carriers has been developed by the International Maritime Organization to minimize losses of bulk carriers.


2. The purpose of the Code is to assist persons responsible for the safe loading or unloading of bulk carriers to carry out their functions and to promote the safety of bulk carriers.


3. The Code primarily covers the safety of ships loading and unloading solid bulk cargoes, excluding grain, and reflects current issues, best practices and legislative requirements. Broader safety and pollution issues such as those covered by the SOLAS, MARPOL and Load Line Conventions are not specifically included in the Code.


4. The recommendations in this Code provide guidance to shipowners, masters, shippers, operators of bulk carriers, charterers and terminal operators for the safe handling, loading, and unloading of solid bulk cargoes. The recommendations are subject to terminal and port requirements, or national regulations. Persons responsible for the loading or unloading of bulk carriers should also be aware of such regulations and equirements.


5. Masters and terminals loading and unloading solid bulk cargoes possessing chemical hazards should also refer to SOLAS chapters II-2 and VII and to MSC/Circ.675 (Recommendations on the Safe Transport of Dangerous Cargoes and Related Activities in Port Areas).


6. The requirements of individual terminals and port authorities should be published in terminal and port information books. The type of information usually given in these books is listed in appendix 1. The books should be given to the masters of ships where possible before or on arrival at a port or terminal.


7. It is recommended that a copy of this Code be made available to every ship, charterer and bulk loading or unloading terminal so that advice on operational procedures is readily available and respective responsibilities are identified.






For the purpose of the Code the following definitions apply:


1.1 Air draught means the vertical distance from the surface of the water to the highest point of mast or aerial.


1.2 Combination carriers (OBO or 0/0) means a ship whose design is similar to a conventional bulk carrier but is equipped with pipelines, pumps and inert gas plant so as to enable the carriage of oil cargoes in designated spaces.


1.3 Conveyor system means the entire system for delivering cargo from the shore stockpile or receiving point to the ship.


1.4 Hot work means the use of open fires and flames, power tools or hot rivets, grinding, soldering, burning, cutting, welding or any other repair work involving heat or creating sparks which may lead to a hazard because of the presence or proximity of flammable atmosphere.


1.5 List indication lights means lights, visible from the deck, which light up to show that a ship is listing.


1.6 Master means the master of the ship or a ship's officer designated by the master.


1.7 Pour means the quantity of cargo poured through one hatch opening as one step in the loading plan, i.e. from the time the spout is positioned over a hatch opening until it is moved to another hatch opening.


1.8 Terminal representative means a person appointed by the terminal or other facility where the ship is loading or unloading, who has responsibility for operations conducted by that terminal or facility with regard to the particular ship.


1.9 Trimming (loading cargo) is the partial or total levelling of the cargo within the holds, by means of loading spouts or chutes, portable machinery, equipment or manual labour.


1.10 Trimming (unloading cargo) is the shovelling or sweeping up of smaller quantities of the cargo in the holds by mechanical means (such as bulldozers) or other means to place them in a convenient position for discharge.


1.11 Trimming (ship) is the adding, removal or shifting of weight in a ship to achieve the required forward and aft draughts.






   2.1 General


2.1.1 All ships nominated for loading should hold the appropriate valid statutory certification including, if required, the document of compliance* for ships carrying solid dangerous goods in bulk. It is recommended that the period of validity of the ship's certificates be sufficient to remain valid during loading, voyage and unloading times, plus a reserve to allow for delays in berthing, inclement weather or both.

* Applicable to ships constructed on or after 1 September 1984.


2.1.2 The shipowner, manager or operator, when offering a ship for a particular cargo or service, should ensure that the ship:


.1 is maintained in a sound, seaworthy condition;

.2 has on board a competent crew;

.3 has on board at least one officer proficient in the languages used at both the loading and unloading ports, or has an officer available who is proficient in the English language; and

.4 is free of defects that may prejudice the ship's safe navigation, loading or unloading.


2.1.3 It is essential that a ship selected to transport a solid bulk cargo be suitable for its intended purpose taking into account the terminals at which it will load or unload.


2.1.4 The charterer and shipper when accepting a ship for a particular cargo or service should ensure that the ship:


.1 is suitable for access to the planned loading or unloading facilities; and

.2 does not have cargo handling equipment which would inhibit the safety of the loading and unloading operations.


   2.2 Ships


2.2.1 Ships nominated for bulk loading should be suitable for the intended cargo. Suitable ships should be:


.1 weathertight, and efficient in all respects for the normal perils of the sea and the intended voyage;


.2 provided with an approved stability and loading booklet written in a language understood by the ship's officers concerned and using standard expressions and abbreviations. If the language is neither English, nor French, nor Spanish, a translation into one of these languages should be included;


.3 provided with hatch openings of sufficient size to enable the cargo to be loaded, stowed and unloaded satisfactorily; and


.4 provided with the hatch identification numbers used in the loading manual and loading or unloading plan. The location, size and colour of these numbers should be chosen so that they are clearly visible to the operator of the loading or unloading equipment.


2.2.2 It is recommended that all ships which are required to carry out stress calculations should have on board an approved loading instrument for the rapid calculation of such stresses.


2.2.3 All propulsion and auxiliary machinery should be in good functional order. Deck equipment related to mooring and berthing operations, including anchors, cables, mooring lines, hawsers and winches, should be operable and in good order and condition.


2.2.4 All hatches, hatch operating systems and safety devices should be in good functional order, and used only for their intended purpose.


2.2.5 List indication lights, if fitted, should be tested prior to loading or unloading and proved operational.


2.2.6 Ship's own cargo handling equipment should be properly certificated and maintained, and used only under the general supervision of suitably qualified ship's personnel.


   2.3 Terminals


2.3.1 Terminal operators should ensure that they only accept ships that can safely berth alongside their installation, taking into consideration issues such as:


.1 water depth at the berth;

.2 maximum size of the ship;

.3 mooring arrangements;

.4 fendering;

.5 safe access; and

.6 obstructions to loading/unloading operations.


2.3.2 Terminal equipment should be properly certificated and maintained in accordance with the relevant national regulations and/or standards, and only operated by duly qualified and, if appropriate, certificated personnel. Where automatic weighing equipment is provided, this should be calibrated at regular intervals.


2.3.3 Terminal personnel should be trained in all aspects of safe loading and unloading of bulk carriers, commensurate with their responsibilities. The training should be designed to provide familiarity with the general hazards of loading, unloading and carriage of bulk cargoes and the adverse effect improper cargo-handling operations may have on the safety of the ship.


2.3.4 Terminal operators should ensure that personnel involved in the loading and unloading operations are duly rested to avoid fatigue.





   3.1 Information exchange: General


3.1.1 It is important that the ship be provided with information about a terminal so the loading or unloading can be planned. Similarly, the terminal will need information about the ship to enable preparations to be made to load or unload the ship. It is important that the information be exchanged in sufficient time to allow preparations to be made.


3.1.2 Before loading commences there should be an agreement between the master and the terminal representative as to the rate of loading and order in which the cargo is to be distributed so as to achieve the final loading plan. In general, this agreement should be based on one or more of the following options:


.1 the limitations or restrictions on loading procedures, if such are specified in the ship's Loading Manual or Trim and Stability Booklet, or both;


.2 if the restrictions mentioned in .1 do not exist, and the ship has a loading instrument which has been approved, the loading plan should be prepared on the instrument and there should be a protocol in place so that the loading remains, at all times, within the approved stress limits of the ship; and/or


.3 if neither .1 or .2 can be satisfied, then a conservative procedure should be followed.


3.1.3 Details should be provided of any necessary repairs which may delay berthing, the commencement of loading or unloading, or may delay the ship sailing on completion of loading or unloading.


3.1.4 The master should ensure he receives from the shipper of the intended cargo details of the nature of the cargo required by chapter VI of SOLAS 1974, as amended.* Where additional details, such as trimming or continuous measurement of the water in the cargo, etc., are required, the master should inform the terminal accordingly.

* Reference is made to MSC/Circ.663 and to the cargo declaration form, which is set out in appendix 5.


   3.2 Information given by the ship to the terminal


3.2.1 In order to plan the proper disposition and availability of the cargo so as to meet the ship's loading plan, the loading terminal should be given the following information.


.1 The ship's estimated time of arrival (ETA) off the port as early as possible. This advice should be updated as appropriate.


.2 At the time of initial ETA advice, the ship should also provide details of the following:


.2.1 name, call sign, IMO Number of the ship, its flag State and port of registry;


.2.2 a loading plan stating the quantity of cargo required, stowage by hatches, loading order and the quantity to be loaded in each pour, provided the ship has sufficient information to be able to prepare such a plan;


.2.3 arrival and proposed departure draughts;


.2.4 time required for deballasting;


.2.5 the ship's length overall, beam, and length of the cargo area from the forward coaming of the forwardmost hatch to the after coaming of the aftmost hatch into which cargo is to be loaded or from which cargo is to be removed;


.2.6 distance from the waterline to the first hatch to be loaded or unloaded and the distance from the ship's side to the hatch opening;


.2.7 the location of the ship's accommodation ladder;


.2.8 air draught;


.2.9 details and capacities of ship's cargo-handling gear;


.2.10 number and type of mooring lines; and .


.2.11 any other item related to the ship requested by the terminal.


.3 Similar information in respect of ETA, unloading plan and details of the ship are required by unloading terminals.


3.2.2 Ships arriving at loading or unloading terminals in a part loaded condition should also advise:


.1 berthing displacement and draughts;

.2 previous loading or unloading port;

.3 nature and stowage of cargo already on board and, when dangerous goods in bulk are on board, the name of the material, IMO Class and UN Number or BC Number.

.4 distribution of cargo on board, indicating that to be unloaded and that to remain on board.


3.2.3 Combination carriers (OBO or 0/0) should advise of the following additional information:


.1 nature of the preceding three cargoes;

.2 date and place at which the last oil cargo was discharged;

.3 advice as to content of slop tanks and whether fully inerted and sealed; and

.4 date, place and name of authority that issued the last gas-free certificate which includes pipelines and pumps.*

* Reference is made to the chapter for combination carriers in the International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers and Terminals (ISCOTT) and in particular to the section on cargo change-over checklists and the section on discharge of bulk cargo.


3.2.4 As soon as possible the ship should confirm that all holds into which cargo is to be loaded are clean, and free from previous cargo residues which in combination with the cargo to be loaded could create a hazard.


3.2.5 Information on the loading or unloading plan and on intended arrival and departure draughts should be progressively updated, and passed to the terminal as circumstances change.


   3.3 Information given by the terminal to the ship


3.3.1 On receipt of the ship's initial notification of its ETA, the terminal should give the ship the following information as soon as possible:


.1 the name of the berth at which loading or unloading will take place and the estimated times for berthing and completion of loading or unloading;


.2 characteristics of the loading or unloading equipment, including the terminal's nominal loading or unloading rate and the number of loading or unloading heads to be used;


.3 features of the berth or jetty the master may need to be aware of, including the position of fixed and mobile obstructions, fenders, bollards and mooring arrangements;


.4 minimum depth of water alongside the berth and in approach or departure channels;


.5 water density at the berth;


.6 the maximum distance between the waterline and the top of cargo hatch covers or coamings, whichever is relevant to the loading operation, and the maximum air draught;


.7 arrangements for gangways and access;


.8 which side of the ship is to be alongside the berth;


.9 maximum allowable speed of approach to the jetty and availability of tugs, their type and bollard pull;


.10 the loading sequence for different parcels of cargo, and any other restrictions if it is not possible to take the cargo in any order or any hold to suit the ship;


.11 any properties of the cargo to be loaded which may present a hazard when placed in contact with cargo or residues on board;


.12 advance information on the proposed cargo-handling operations or changes to existing plans for cargo handling;


.13 if the terminal's loading or unloading equipment is fixed, or has any limits to its movement;


.14 mooring lines required;


.15 warning of unusual mooring arrangements;


.16 any restrictions on deballasting;


.17 maximum sailing draught permitted by the port authority; and .18 any other items related to the terminal requested by the master.


3.3.2 Information on estimated times for berthing and departure and on minimum water depth at the berth should be progressively updated and passed to the master on receipt of successive ETA advices.


3.3.3 The terminal representative should be satisfied that the ship has been advised as early as possible of the information contained in the cargo declaration as required by chapter VI of SOLAS 1974, as amended.





   4.1 Principles


4.1.1 The master is responsible at all times for the safe loading and unloading of the ship, the details of which should be confirmed to the terminal representative in the form of a loading or unloading plan. In addition, the master should:


.1 ensure that the checklist in appendix 3 is completed in consultation with the terminal before loading or unloading is commenced;


.2 ensure that the loading or unloading of cargo and the discharge or intake of ballast water is under the control of the ship's officer in charge;


.3 ensure that the disposition of cargo and ballast water is monitored throughout the loading or unloading process to ensure that the ship's structure is not overstressed;


.4 ensure that the terminal representative is made aware of the requirements for harmonization between deballasting and cargo loading rates for his ship;


.5 ensure that ballast water is discharged at rates which conform to the agreed loading plan and do not result in flooding of the quay or of adjacent craft;


.6 retain on board sufficient officers and crew to attend to the adjustment of mooring lines or for any normal or emergency situation, having regard to the need of the crew to have sufficient rest periods to avoid fatigue;


.7 ensure the loading or unloading plans have been passed to and agreed with the terminal representative;


.8 ensure that the terminal representative is made aware of the cargo trimming requirements;


.9 ensure that appropriate information about the cargo to be loaded (appendix 5) has been received to enable safe stowage and carriage to be achieved;


.10 ensure that there is agreement between ship and shore as to the action to be taken in the event of rain, or other change in the weather, when the nature of the cargo would pose a hazard in the event of such a change; and


.11 ensure that no hot work is carried out on board the ship while the ship is alongside the berth except with the permission of the terminal representative and in accordance with any requirements of the port Administration.



4.1.2 The terminal representative is responsible for loading or unloading cargo in accordance with the hatch sequence and tonnages stated on the ship's loading or unloading plan. In addition, the terminal representative should:


.1 complete the checklist in appendix 3 in consultation with the master before loading or unloading is commenced;


.2 not deviate from the loading or unloading plan unless by prior consultation and agreement with the master;


.3 trim the cargo, when loading or unloading, to the master's requirements;


.4 maintain a record of the weight and disposition of the cargo loaded or unloaded and ensure that the weights in the hold do not deviate from the plan;


.5 provide the master with the names and procedures for contacting the terminal personnel or shipper's agent who will have responsibility for the loading or unloading operation and with whom the master will have contact;

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