Terminals call for dry bulk design rethink
Poor specifications for dry bulk vessels being pushed through for 2011 delivery could put lives at risk as yards and owners continue to overlook vital design work.
Rushed design work of cargo handling features are of particular concern, as trapped materials continue to pose danger for terminal workers during the loading and discharge process.
?These ships will be of a standard design ? 175,000 dwt capesizes, for example ? that yards can offer to shipowners and therefore it is almost like taking something off the supermarket shelf,? said International Dry Bulk Terminals Group executive director Richard Peckham.
?Ultimately, with some additional thought and a little extra cost, designs can be adjusted to give you much better safety and better efficiency.?
As well as seafarers, for terminals the safety of onshore workers is paramount, especially when entering holds to assist in discharging dry bulk cargoes.
But with many ports encountering healthy and safety problems regarding trapped materials, which can be extremely dangerous and can slow down discharge speeds, terminals are urging those involved in the design process to pay greater attention to cargo handling.
?It is not just the shipowners, but the yards and the designers and naval architects and so on, who have also not responded to materials handling,? Mr Peckham said.
?A few years ago, for example, we met with a Japanese yard and asked them what they factored in from the port operating environment when designing dry bulk ships. Essentially all it was draught and beam. We were almost speechless at this.?
One cause for concern was orders placed by speculative buyers and sold on in resale deals, or slots taken over by banks that had no specialist knowledge of shipping, especially in materials handling, Mr Peckham said.
?A lot of the newbuilding bulk carriers that you see were ordered by people simply making an asset play.
?They are not shipowners in the true sense of the word.
?There are limited number of people who have taken this argument on board, but it is a huge issue and there are people representing shipowners that have little or no grasp of cargo or materials handling.?
From the perspective of the class societies, cargo handling is not part of their role.
?We are more focused on the energy efficiency. Cargo handling is not in the spotlight because we expect a shipowner buying a vessel to know the specifications needed for loading and unloading,? a source from Germanischer Lloyd said.
Norwegian rival Det Norske Veritas agreed but added it had spent many years focusing not only on shipowners" needs, but also those of terminals and cargo owners.
Recent orders of dry bulk carriers with delivery in 2011 were no cause for concern though, DNV bulk carriers segment director Michael Aasland said.
?They are safe but the degree of suitability will of course vary for the type of trade that an owner puts its vessel out for. With the current market conditions we expect an increase in specialisation and niche thinking in the market to come and DNV is working with owners to assist them in this process,? he said.
Star Bulk Carriers is one dry bulk owner that has signed two capesize newbuilding contracts over the last month with delivery dates in 2011 from Hanjin Heavy Industries" Philippines yard.
At the end of March, Hanjin"s London representative said it had almost run out of newbuilding slots for 2011 and that dry bulk orders were more preferable to shipyards as they were less complex compared with other vessel types, such as tankers.
?We do not have a lot of time for the design work, so this is a very tight schedule for 2011 delivery,? Hanjin"s London representative told last month.
The view from the International Cargo Handling Co-ordination Association is that the International Maritime Organization had already put measures in place.
?Under the [bulk carrier safe loading code] the master and terminal representative together would agree on a loading or discharge plan so there is a mechanism in place that should ensure that there is a safe procedure in place,? said Mike Compton of ICHCA.