The BLU Code has been developed by IMO to minimise losses of bulk carriers.
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.
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 requirements.
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.
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.
Air draught means the vertical distance from the surface of the water to the highest point of mast or aerial.
Combination carriers (OBO or O/O) 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 designated spaces.
Conveyor system means the entire system for delivering cargo from the shore stockpile or receiving point to the ship.
List indication lights mean lights, visible from the deck, which light up to show that a ship is listing.
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.
Terminal representative means a person appointed by the terminal or another 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.
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.
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.
Trimming (ship) is the adding, removal or shifting of weight in a ship to achieve the required forward and aft draughts
SECTION 2 – SUITABILITY OF SHIPS AND TERMINALS
1 All ships nominated for loading should hold the appropriate valid statutory certification including, if required, the document of compliance1 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.
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 in 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
4 All hatches, hatch operating systems and safety devices should be in good functional order, and used only for their intended purpose.
5 List indication lights, if fitted, should be tested prior to loading or unloading and proved operational.
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.
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;
.5 safe access; and
.6 obstructions to loading/unloading operations.
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.
2.1 Where automatic weighing equipment is provided, this should be calibrated at regular intervals.
3 Terminal personnel should be trained in all aspects of safe loading and unloading of bulk carriers, commensurate with their responsibilities.
3.1 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.
4 Terminal operators should ensure that personnel involved in the loading and unloading operations are duly rested to avoid fatigue.
SECTION 3 – PROCEDURES BETWEEN SHIP AND SHORE PRIOR TO THE SHIP’S
Information exchange: General
1 It is important that the ship is 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 is exchanged in sufficient time to allow preparations to be made.
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 Details should be provided for 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.
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 amended2. 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.
Information given by the ship to the terminal
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 de-ballasting;
.2.5 the ship’s length overall, beam, and length of the cargo area from the forward coaming of the forward-most hatch to the after coaming of the aft-most hatch into which cargo is to be loaded or from which cargo is to be removed;
.2.6 distance from the water line 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.
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 Combination carriers (OBO or O/O) 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 the authority that issued the last gas free certificate which includes pipelines and pumps3.
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.
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.
Information given by the terminal to the ship
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 water line and the top of cargo hatch covers or
coamings, whichever is relevant to the loading operation, and the maximum air draft;
.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 de-ballasting;
.17 maximum sailing draught permitted by the port authority; and
.18 any other items related to the terminal requested by the master.
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 advice.
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.
SECTION 4 – PROCEDURES BETWEEN THE SHIP AND TERMINAL PRIOR TO CARGO
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 by 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 harmonisation 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 for 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 check list 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;
.6 avoid damage to the ship by the loading or unloading equipment and inform the master, if damage occurs;
.7 ensure that no hot work is carried out on board or in the vicinity of the ship while the ship is alongside the berth except with the permission of the master and in accordance with any requirements of the port administration; and
.8 ensure that there is an agreement between the master and the terminal representative at all stages and in relation to all aspects of the loading or unloading operation.
4.2.1 The following are considered important procedures in respect of cargo loading:
.1 the master and terminal representative should indicate agreement to the loading plan before commencement of loading by signing the plan in the spaces provided;
.2 the master should state on the agreed loading plan, the order in which the holds are to be loaded, the weight of each pour, the total weight in each hold and the amount of cargo for vessel trimming purposes, if required;
.3 the terminal representative, on receipt of the ship’s initial loading plan (see 3.2.1), should advise the master of the nominal loading rate at which the ship may expect to receive the cargo and the estimated time required to complete each pour;
.4 where it is not practical for the ship to completely discharge its ballast water prior to reaching the trimming stage in the loading process, the master and the terminal representative should agree on the times at which loading may need to be suspended and the duration of such suspensions;
.5 the loading plan should be prepared so as to ensure that all ballast pumping rates and loading rates are considered carefully to avoid overstressing the hull;
.6 the quantities of cargo required to achieve the departure draft and trim should allow for all cargo on the terminal’s conveyor systems to be run off and empty on completion of a loading. The terminal representative should advise the master of the nominal tonnage contained on its conveyor system and any requirements for clearing the conveyor system on completion of loading; and
.7 communication arrangements between the ship and terminal should be capable of responding to requests for information on the loading process and of prompt compliance in the event that the master or terminal representative orders loading to be suspended. Consideration should be given to the disposition of cargo on the conveyor systems and to the response time in the event of an emergency stop.
4.2.2 The following are considered important procedures in respect of cargo unloading:
.1 the terminal representative, when proposing or accepting the initial unloading plan, should advise the master of the nominal unloading rate and the estimated time required for each stage of the discharge;
.2 the master should advise the hold order and the weight to be unloaded in each stage of the discharge;
.3 the terminal representative should give the ship the maximum warning when it is intended to increase, or to reduce, the number of unloading heads used; and
.4 communication arrangements between ship and terminal should be capable of responding to requests for information on the unloading process and of prompt compliance in the event that the master orders unloading to be suspended.
4.3.1 The loading or unloading plan should be prepared in a form such as that shown in the appendix . Worked examples of this form are also shown in appendix 2. A different form may be used provided it contains the essential information to meet the requirements of this Code. The minimum information for this purpose is that enclosed in the heavy line box on the sample form.
4.3.2 The loading or unloading plan should only be changed when a revised plan has been prepared, accepted and signed by both parties. Loading plans should be kept by the ship and terminal for a period of six months.
4.3.3 A copy of the agreed loading or unloading plan and any subsequent amendments to it should be lodged with the appropriate authority of the port State.
SECTION 5 – CARGO LOADING AND HANDLING OF BALLAST
5.1.1 When the cargo loading plan is agreed, the master and terminal representative should confirm the method of cargo operations so as to ensure no excessive stresses on the hull, tank top and associated structures, and exchange information to avoid any structural damage to the ship by cargo handling equipment.
5.1.2 The terminal representative should alert the master when the cargo is heavy, or when the individual grab loads are large, that there may be high, localised impact loads on the ship’s structure until the tank top is completely covered by cargo, especially when high free-fall drops are permitted. As such impacts have the potential for causing structural damage, special care should be taken at the start of the loading operation in each cargo hold.
5.1.3 Monitoring of the cargo handling operation and effective communication between the terminal and ship must be maintained at all times, and especially during final trimming of the ship.
5.1.4 Any requirement for cargo trimming should be in accordance with the procedures of the IMO Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC Code).
5.1.5 In order to effectively monitor the progress of the cargo loading operation it is essential for both the master and terminal representative to have readily accessible information on the total quantity loaded, as well as the quantities per pour.
5.1.6 On completion of loading, the master and the terminal representative should agree in writing that the ship has been loaded in accordance with the loading plan, including any agreed variations.
5.2 Ship duties
5.2.1 The master should advise the terminal representative of any deviation from the deballasting plan or any other matter which may affect cargo loading.
5.2.2 The ship should be kept upright or if a list is required for operational reasons, it should be kept as small as possible.
5.2.3 The master should ensure close supervision of the loading operation and of the ship during final stages of loading. The master should advise the terminal representative when final trimming of the ship has to commence in order to allow for the conveyor system run-off.
5.3 Terminal duties
5.3.1 The terminal representative should advise the master of any change to the agreed loading rate and, at the completion of each pour, the terminal representative should advise the master of the weight loaded and that cargo loading continues in accordance with the agreed cargo plan.
Refer to the International Safety Guide for Oil Tankers and Terminals (ISGOTT), section on the operation of combination carriers.
Reference is made to Assembly resolution A.864(20) on Recommendations for Entering Enclosed Spaces Aboard Ships.
5.3.2 The ship should be kept upright with the cargo distributed so as to eliminate any twisting of the ship’s structure.
5.3.3 The terminal should use weight-meters which are well maintained and provide an accuracy to within 1% of the rated quantity required over the normal range of loading rates. The terminal should frequently monitor the weight of cargo that is being loaded and inform the ship so that it can be compared with the cargo loading plan and the ship’s calculation by draught marks.
SECTION 6 – UNLOADING CARGO AND HANDLING OF BALLAST
6.1.1 When the cargo unloading plan is agreed, the Master and terminal representative must confirm the method of cargo operations so as to ensure no excessive stresses on the hull, tank top and associated structures, including any measures to reduce and eliminate any structural damage to the ship by cargo handling equipment.
6.1.2 Monitoring and effective communication between the terminal and ship must be maintained at all times.
6.1.3 On completion of unloading, the master and the terminal representative should agree in writing that the ship has been unloaded in accordance with the agreed unloading plan, with the holds emptied and cleaned to the Master’s requirements, and should record any detected damage suffered by the ship.
6.1.4 In order to maintain an effective monitoring of the progress of the cargo unloading plan, it is essential for both the master and the terminal representative to have readily accessible information on the total unloaded quantity as well as on the quantities unloaded per hatch.
6.1.5 When ballasting one or more holds, master and the terminal operator should take account of the possibility of the discharge of flammable vapours from the holds. Suitable precautions should be taken before any hot work is permitted adjacent to or above that space.
6.2 Ship duties
6.2.1 The master will advise the terminal representative of any deviation from the ballasting plan or any other matter which may effect cargo unloading.
6.2.2 At the start and during all stages of unloading cargo, the master should ensure that frequent checks are made so that:
.1 cargo spaces and other enclosed spaces are well ventilated, and persons are allowed to enter them only after they have been declared safe for entry in accordance with the guidelines5 developed by the Organization;
.2 the cargo is being unloaded from each hold in accordance with the agreed unloading plan;
.3 the ballasting operation is proceeding in accordance with the agreed unloading plan;
.4 the ship is securely moored, and that weather conditions are being monitored and local weather forecasts obtained;
.5 the ship’s draught is read regularly to monitor the progress of the unloading;
.6 the terminal representative is warned immediately if the unloading process has caused damage, has created a hazardous situation, or is likely to do so;
.7 the ship is kept upright, or, if a list is required for operational reasons, it is kept as small as possible; and
.8 the unloading of the port side closely matches that of the starboard side in the same hold to avoid twisting the ship.
6.2.3 The master should ensure close supervision of the final stages of the unloading, to ensure that all cargo is unloaded.
6.3 Terminal duties
6.3.1 The terminal representative should follow the agreed unloading plan and should consult with the master if there is a need to amend the plan.
6.3.2 The ship is to be kept upright or, if a list is required for operational reasons, it is to be kept as small as possible.
6.3.3 The unloading of the port side closely matches that of the starboard side in the same hold, to avoid twisting the ship.
6.3.4 Unloading rates and sequences should not be altered by the terminal unless by prior consultation and agreement between the master and the terminal representative.
6.3.5 The terminal representative should advise the master when unloading is considered to be completed from each hold.
6.3.6 The terminal should make every effort to avoid damage to the ship when using unloading or hold cleaning equipment. If damage does occur, it should be reported to the master and, if necessary, repaired.
If the damage could impair the structural capability or watertight integrity of the hull, or the ship’s essential engineering systems, the Administration or an organisation recognised by it and the appropriate authority of the port State should be informed, so that they can decide whether immediate repair is necessary or whether it can be deferred. In either case, the action was taken, whether to carry out the repair or defer it, should be to the satisfaction of the Administration or an organisation recognised by it and the appropriate authority of the port State. Where immediate repair is considered necessary, it should be carried out to the satisfaction of the master before the ship leaves the port.
6.3.7 The terminal representative should monitor the weather conditions and provide the master with the forecast of any local adverse weather condition.
RECOMMENDED CONTENTS OF PORT AND TERMINAL INFORMATION BOOKS
1 It is recommended that information books prepared by terminal operators, port authorities or both should contain the following information relating to their site specific requirements:
1.1 Port Information Books:
.1 Location of the port and the terminal
.2 Details of port administration
.3 Radiocommunication procedures and frequencies
.4 Arrival information requirements
.5 Port health, immigration, quarantine and customs regulations and procedures
.6 Relevant charts and nautical publications
.7 Pilotage requirements
.8 Towage and tug assistance
.9 Berthing and anchorage facilities
.10 Port emergency procedures
.11 Significant weather features
.12 Availability of fresh water, provisions, bunkers and lubricants
.13 The maximum size of ship the port can accept
.14 Maximum permissible draught and minimum depth of water in navigation channels
.15 Water density at the port
.16 Maximum permissible air draught
.17 Requirements for ship’s draught and trim for navigation in the waterways
.18 Tidal and current information, as it affects ship movements
.19 Restrictions or conditions on the discharge of ballast water
.20 Statutory requirements regarding loading and cargo declaration
.21 Information on waste reception facilities in the port
1.2 Terminal Information Books:
.1 Details of terminal contact personnel
.2 Technical data on the berths and loading or unloading equipment
.3 Depth of water at the berth
.4 Water density at the berth
.5 The minimum and maximum size of ship which the terminal’s facilities are designed to
accept, including the minimum clearance between deck obstructions
.6 Mooring arrangements and attendance of mooring lines
.7 Loading or unloading rates and equipment clearances
.8 Loading or unloading procedures and communications
.9 Cargo weight determinations by weight meter and draught survey
.10 Conditions for acceptance of combination carriers
.11 Access to and from ships and berths or jetties
.12 Terminal emergency procedures
.13 Damage and indemnity arrangements
.14 Landing location of accommodation ladder
.15 Information on waste reception facilities at the terminal
1.3 Extreme cold weather information
Ports and terminals situated in regions subject to extremely cold weather should advise masters where to obtain information on the operation of ships under such conditions.