What is IMSBC or International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code & What are its contents? |

What is IMSBC or International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code & What are its contents?

Written by Amit Sharma

The primary   aim  of the  International   Maritime   Solid  Bulk  Cargoes  Code  (IMSBC Code), which   replaces  the Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC Code),  is to facilitate  the safe stowage  and shipment  of solid bulk  cargoes  by providing   information   on the dangers associated  with  the shipment  of certain  types  of solid bulk  cargoes  and  instructions   on the procedures  to be adopted  when  the  shipment  of solid  bulk  cargoes  is contemplated.

The IMSBC  Code,  adopted  on  4  December   2008  by  resolution   MSC.268 (85l,   entered  into force on 1 January 2011, from which  date it was made mandatory  under the provisions  of the SOLAS Convention.  The Code  was  amended   by  resolution   MSC.318 (89),   incorporating   amendment 01-11, which   entered into  force  on  1 January  2013.  The  Code  was  further   amended   by resolution   MSC.354(92),   incorporating amendment   02-l3,  which  may be applied  from  1 January 2014 on a voluntary   basis, anticipating   its envisaged official  entry  into force  on 1 January 2015,

IMSBC Code is supplemented by  the Code of Practice for the Safe Loading and Unloading  of Bulk Carriers (BLU  Code including  BLU  Manual) & recommendation on  the safe use of pesticides  in ships applicable   to the fumigation   of cargo  holds.  It also includes  a directory of  contact   names and  addresses of offices  of  designated  national  competent   authorities   responsible  for the safe carriage of grain and solid bulk  cargoes.  IMSBC Code and supplement   is commended   to Administrations, ship owners,   shippers  and  masters  and  all  others  concerned   with  the  standards  to  be  applied   in the  safe stowage and shipment  of solid  bulk  cargoes, excluding  grain.

 Aim of code of safe practice for solid bulk cargoes:-

The International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code), and amendments to SOLAS chapter VI to make the Code mandatory, were adopted by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), 85th session, in 2008. . The amendments entered into force on 1 January 2011. The IMSBC Code replaced the Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC Code), which was first adopted as a recommendatory code in 1965 .

The aim of code of safe practice for solid bulk cargoes were

  • To highlight the dangers associated with shipment of the bulk cargoes
  • To give guidance on procedures to be adopted
  • To list typical material currently being shipped in bulk
  • To describe test procedure to determine various characteristics of bulk cargoes.


The format of the IMSBC Code is similar to that of the existing BC Code. Like the BC Code, the IMSBC Code categorises cargoes into three groups – A, B and C:

Group A consist of the cargoes which may liquefy if shipped with moisture content in excess of their transportable moisture limit.

Group B consists of cargoes which possess a chemical hazard which could give rise to a dangerous situation on a ship.

Group C consists of cargoes which are not liable to liquefy (Group A) and do not possess chemical hazards (Group B).

Solid bulk cargo means any cargo, other than liquid or gas, consisting of a combination of particles, granules or any larger pieces of material generally uniform in composition, which is loaded directly into the cargo spaces of a ship without any intermediate form of containment.
The carriage of solid bulk cargoes other than grain shall be in compliance with the relevant provisions of the IMSBC Code.

Difference between Group A and Group C cargoes under the IMSBC Code :-

Cargoes which may liquefy are cargoes which contain a certain proportion of fine particles and a certain amount of moisture. Such cargoes are designated as Group A under the IMSBC Code.

Cargoes designated as Group C will not liquefy regardless of the moisture content, and are therefore not hazardous.

In order to assess whether a given material may liquefy, Appendix 3 of the IMSBC Code specifies that any damp or wet cargo containing a proportion of fine particles should be tested for flow characteristics prior to loading.

  1. Cargoes can be tested using either the flow table method or the penetration test method, both of which involve increasing the moisture content of a sample until actual liquefaction is observed.
  2. For genuine Group C cargoes, this point is never reached and so no transportable moisture limit can be determined. As a result, any cargo which possesses a TML determined by either of these methods is a Group A cargo. However, it should be noted that some materials which are untestable by these tests may still liquefy, and as such are Group A cargoes. Similarly, any cargoes for which actual liquefaction occurs (for example by a flattening of the stow or large-scale cargo flow during ocean carriage) are Group A cargoes, independently of any tests carried out.
  3. On a practical level, Group A cargoes contain sufficient small particles that they can take on a muddy consistency if wet enough. Group C cargoes, by contrast, are gravel-like materials which never become muddy regardless of how wet they are, as any water added drains through the gaps between the particles. Simple qualitative tests to assess this can be carried out on the spot by taking a cargo sample and adding water to it to see if it turns into a mud-like consistency. If yes, the material is likely to be a Group A cargo.
Table  of Contents of IMSBC code.

Section 1  General provisions and definitions
Section 2  General loading, carriage and unloading precautions
Section 3  Safety of personnel and ship
Section 4  Assessment of acceptability of consignments for safe shipment
Section 5  Trimming procedures
Section 6  Methods of determining angle of repose
Section 7  Cargoes that may liquefy
Section 8  Test procedures for cargoes that may liquefy
Section 9  Materials possessing chemical hazards
Section 10  Carriage of solid bulk wastes
Section 11  Security provisions
Section 12  Stowage factor conversion tables
Section 13  References

Appendix 1   Individual schedules of solid bulk cargoes
Appendix 2  Laboratory test procedures, associated apparatus and standards
Appendix 3  Properties of solid bulk cargoes
Appendix 4  Index of solid bulk cargoes

Cargo information shall be confirmed in writing and by appropriate shipping documents prior to loading.

The cargo information shall include:

  1. The BCSN when the cargo is listed in IMSBC code. Secondary names may be used in addition to the BCSN; ( Each solid bulk cargo in IMSBC code has been assigned a Bulk Cargo Shipping Name (BCSN). When a solid bulk cargo is carried by sea it shall be identified in the transport documentation by the BCSN. The BCSN shall be supplemented with the United Nations (UN) number when the cargo is dangerous goods.)
  2. The cargo group (A and B, A, B or C);
  3. The IMO Class of the cargo, if applicable;
  4. The UN number preceded by letters UN for the cargo, if applicable;
  5. The total quantity of the cargo offered;
  6. The stowage factor;
  7. The need for trimming and the trimming procedures, as necessary;
  8. The likelihood of shifting, including angle of repose, if applicable;
  9. Additional information in the form of a certificate on the moisture content of the cargo and its transportable moisture limit in the case of a concentrate or other cargo which may liquefy;
  10. Likelihood of formation of a wet base
  11. Toxic or flammable gases which may be generated by cargo, if applicable;
  12. Flammability, toxicity, corrosiveness and propensity to oxygen depletion of the cargo, if applicable;
  13. Self-heating properties of the cargo, and the need for trimming, if applicable;
  14. Properties on emission of flammable gases in contact with water, if applicable;
  15. Radioactive properties, if applicable; and
  16. Any other information required by national authorities.

About the author

Amit Sharma

Graduated from M.E.R.I. Mumbai (Mumbai University), After a brief sailing founded this website with the idea to bring the maritime education online which must be free and available for all at all times and to find basic solutions that are of extreme importance to a seafarer by our innovative ideas.

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