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Maximum quantity of coal cargo transportable by MV Lotus dawn through Manila-New York route

Draft limitation = 14.00m.

Dead weight = 74,650 tons

Coal cargo stowage factor = 1.42m3/tone

Bale capacity = 88,600m3

1 ton of coal cargo occupies 1.42m3

Weight of coal occupying 88,600m3 will be:

(88,600m3 x 1ton)/ 1.42m3

= 125,812 tons of coal cargo

In this case, it is assumed that the coal cargo will be transported during winter so that the draft will not exceed the limitation at the loading port. The summer load line is higher than the draft limitation at the loading port, hence may not be used in coal cargo loading. As such, the dead weight applicable in the loading of coal is 74,650 tons. The coal cargo is transportable, as bulk in bales, and the bale capacity will be applied.

Coal cargo hazards and risk reduction strategies

Accidents are hazardous occurrences that result from unsafe practices due to lack of knowledge, training or failure to follow correct procedures. In most cases, coal accidents result to loss of life or injury to the handlers, and cause extensive damage, earnings, and employment. Coal accidents during handling can be avoided when the loaders are well trained on safety, and checklists used to ensure that the process is procedural. Navigation safety also enhances management of coal cargo. When the safety codes are properly followed, the multiple risks and hazards in coal cargo handling can be eliminated.

Shipping accidents are caused by technical failures, natural conditions, route conditions, human errors, ship and/or cargo related factors. These accidents range from collisions, foundering, capsize, stranding, grounding, ship breakdown, explosion or fire and ship break up. In coal cargo handling and shipping, cargo-related accidents such as fire and explosions can be experienced. Some accidents involving coal carriage are spillage, which cause pollution in the sea (Akten 272).

Human errors can cause coal cargo handling accidents. When the handlers have inadequate knowledge or experience in loading and unloading, or are technically unable to operate the cargo procedures effectively, the accidents may occur. The cargo accidents of this nature result from handlers not following procedures and rules correctly, or they misinterpret some information. The cargo handling staff may be overworked, with less resting periods and sleep. This may render them fatigued and may hazardous errors in the process. The coal handling hazards of this nature are procedural defaults caused by the cargo personnel. 

Coal is a dangerous product and its shipping safety procedures are elaborate, since it has hazardous characteristics. Such products need much care and diligence during handling. Coal cargo fires may occur suddenly during shipment. The effects of coal fires are not localized. In narrow waters, it may affect the whole route. Coal carriage makes such ships vulnerable to fires and/or explosions. Coal emissions may build up inside the cargo ship and may be a threat since the dangerous gases may explode. The ship fire may affect other cruise ships along the route (Akten, 269).

The coal cargo accidents caused by spillage or explosions may be hazardous to the marine environment. Pollution can affect seaside vacation, fish farming, swimming, water sports and may affect territorial waters. The harm to marine life would be immeasurable (Akten 270). Spontaneous combustion may result from coals that are liable to self-heating.

During handling operations, the inert gas system should be active to prevent accumulation of explosive gas emissions.  The cargo handlers should operate the loading and unloading equipment correctly following standard procedures. The equipment used in all cases should be standardized for proper operation in this era of application of high technology. Human equipment handling mistakes have been made despite the availability of advanced technological equipment.

It is imperative to note, according to O'Neill (1999), human beings have developed equipment that is more sophisticated and have relied too much on them than the experience, common sense and training.

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Coal cargo handling can cause health hazards when mishandled, especially coal dust produced. There are chronic risks that the personnel are exposed to when handling coal cargo. As such, the loading, carriage and unloading processes should be done with utmost hygienic standards. Protective clothing should be used to minimize health hazards. The personnel should work in a ventilated setting to ensure that dust explosions and inhalation of toxic gases is minimized. Coal dusts can also be minimized through hosing down instead of sweeping.

When it is likely that the cargo can self-heat, the fire accidents can be prevented by avoiding stowage adjacent to heated fuel tank, heated cargo tank or bulkhead of machinery space. Accidents can also be prevented by protecting the coal cargo from sparks, steam pipes, flames and heating coils. The electrical components that are located between cargo components should be checked to ensure that they are free from defects, and that they are safe for use in an explosive setting.

Coal cargo may liquefy and become hazardous in the process of loading, unloading and/or carriage. As such, the loading process should be done while checking the minimum moisture limit needed to transport the cargo.

The coal cargo may have been solid or granular when loaded, but due to the moisture content, or stimulus compaction and vibration during voyage, the carrier may capsize. The cargo may roll on one side of the ship, and this may cause the ship to sway progressively. To minimize the risk of capsizing, the cargo should be trimmed to a reasonable level when loading is complete.

The general characteristics of the coal cargo should be provided to the master by the shipper prior to loading. This information will help in determining the procedure for loading and checking temperature and liability of the cargo to self-heat. The handlers should seek expert advice in case the hatches are open or the temperature exceeds 55 degrees Celsius at the time of loading.

Many coal cargo accidents may be caused by extended journey times and/or long storage periods on shore. There are challenges in discharging hot coal in the original loading terminal. There should be a means of discharging hot coal cargo at the loading terminal to reduce risk of accidents caused by rejected coal. Suitable instruments should be used for sampling and close monitoring of temperature to ensure that it does not exceed 55 degrees Celsius. The hatch covers should be tightly sealed, ventilators and other openings to reduce spontaneous heating and prevent air from entering the cargo. This should be monitored by checking the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

It may not be possible to pay attention and follow all the details, but careful attention to detail and professional guidance, it is possible to stabilize heated coal cargo to condition that it is safe for carriage without necessarily digging out from the holds of the ship.

In the event that the vessel receives more than one parcel at the terminal, it should load one before moving to the next. This will reduce accidents at the loading terminal. The loaders should ensure that the holds are clean and empty before loading coal cargo.

Bulk carriage of coal can emit methane, which is flammable when mixed with air, resulting to an explosive atmosphere. Methane is lighter than air and can gather in the cargo holds when closed. Methane can leak through the adjacent cargo holds when they are not tightly closed, thus, chances of damage or loss to cargo and the vessel are high.

Coal can be oxidized and thus, result to oxygen depletion and increase in the levels of carbon dioxide. Leakages can cause production of hydrogen gas, which is flammable. The handlers thus need to take precautions to minimize hydrogen emissions and self-heating. The loaders should follow the accepted industry codes of practice. The operators should also avoid mis-declaring coal as not being liable to self-heating, or avail no details of methane-emitting characteristics of the cargo.

Proper and close monitoring of the cargo loading process should be done by carrier operators to ensure that the procedures are clearly followed. The shipper should also provide cargo declaration that is consistent with International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code requirements. Prior to unloading, the hold ventilators should be unplugged and ventilation should be ensured on the lower hold.  The crew should avoid work below the decks during voyage.

The personnel should also take personal precautionary measures when handling coal cargo. The ship should carry self-contained breathing apparatus, which should be worn by the trained personnel. There should be no smoking or naked flames in the cargo areas and adjacent spaces. Ignition sources such as burning, welding, chipping and cutting should not be permitted in the cargo areas unless the spaces are well ventilated. Stowing of coal cargo should be done far from hot areas.

When it is likely that the cargo can self-heat, the fire accidents can be prevented by avoiding stowage adjacent to heated fuel tank, heated cargo tank or bulkhead of machinery space. Accidents can also be prevented by protecting the coal cargo from sparks, steam pipes, flames and heating coils. The electrical components that are located between cargo components should be checked to ensure that they are free from defects, and that they are safe for use in an explosive setting.

Coal cargo may liquefy and become hazardous in the process of loading, unloading and/or carriage. As such, the loading process should be done while checking the minimum moisture limit needed to transport the cargo.

(c)  Coal cargo claims against losses and strategies to reduce such claims

Cargo claims arise when there are shortages, damages, losses, or shortfalls to the marine cargo during handling, loading carriage and unloading. Such claims usually invoke maritime law. In most cases, the cargo claims are covered by marine insurance, which covers cargo transportation on land, sea or air. Effective claims under this policy result to subrogation as the insurer attempts to get from the agents the loss or damages.

Under the ICC Termination Act, the claims can be made for losses or damage to the coal cargo. The plaintiff must be able to show that the cargo was delivered in good condition at the loading terminal, but arrived in damaged condition, and the actual loss determined (Huebner 197).

However, the carrier, MV Lotus Dawn, can use defensive strategies to reduce likelihood of such claims. The carrier can point out that the damage or loss was an act of God, a natural or catastrophic phenomenon that was beyond the control of the carrier. In the defense, the carrier can also claim that the goods were received in that condition and that the damage was an act of the shipper himself. MV Lotus dawn can further develop nature of goods handled as strategies to avoid such claims. In this manner, the carrier can try prove that the loss was not caused by negligence and that the coal cargo damages resulted from unexpected causes.

The coal cargo claims can be made when the carrier fails to deliver the cargo at the right time and destination. The carrier can point out that the damage was caused by the return journey if the cargo was returned to the shipper for inspection after arriving at the destination damaged. They can base their defense on the premise that more damages were caused during the return journey.

While avoiding such claims, the carrier can prove that the goods were defective and had low quality (temperature and heating effects might have started prior to delivery). Furthermore, the carrier can ascertain that the loss resulted from attempts to save life or property at sea. The claim avoidance strategies can include insufficient packing space for the cargo. The carrier can also prove an act of omission from agents or shipper's representative. The carrier may not be liable to loss or damage if this was caused by fire, if it was not caused by the carrier's default or privity.

Under this claim, the carrier can defend that the losses were caused by the perils of the sea, such as strong storm that can overcome well-found ships and other natural precautions of good seamanship. In this defense, the carrier can prove that nature of the goods and that of the sea. Thus, the carrier has to prove that it did not exercise negligence in the face of these conditions. The carrier has to prove, as well, that the storm was sufficient to be a peril, based on its severity (Hodges 35).

The act of God defense stands out to be a good strategy that the carrier can employ. It includes extraordinary occurrences that the history of climatic variation and local conditions do not serve as reasonable warning for it. It occurs as a direct and exclusive operation of forces of nature that goes beyond the control of man. Thus, the carrier can prove the defense based on the facts during the journey. The carrier can argue that the coal cargo deteriorated due to contact by salt water since they were shipped in wet condition, and this resulted to their loss of weight during voyage.

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