SOLAS - Mandatory Compliance with the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code

rok11In December 2008 IMO adopted Resolution MSC.268(85) introducing the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code in place of the Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC Code). Compliance with the latter was recommendatory unless imposed by individual flag states as a statutory requirement. Although meeting the provisions of the IMSBC Code has been voluntary since 1 January 2009, compliance will become mandatory under SOLAS on 1 January 2011 regardless of a vessel’s gross tonnage or age.


The carriage of grain remains covered by IMO’s International Code for the Safe Carriage of Grain in Bulk (the “Grain Rules”).

The IMSBC Code indicates that a particular requirement is mandatory by the use of the word “shall”. Issues described as “should” and “may” are recommended and optional respectively. However, the non-mandatory provisions of the IMSBC Code should be regarded as best practice and be taken into account wherever possible.

The IMSBC Code includes a number of new or revised cargo schedules with entries being added for Direct Reduced Iron (DRI) by-product fines, spent cathodes, linted cotton seed, sulphur (solid, formed), granulated tyre rubber and a number of others. Additional supplementary information has also been incorporated including:

  • The Code of Practice for the Safe Loading and Unloading of Bulk Carriers (BLU Code)
  • Recommendations on the Safe Use of Pesticides in Ships Applicable to the Fumigation of Cargo Holds (MSC.1/Circ.1264)
  • Contact Names and Addresses of the Offices of Designated National Competent Authorities Responsible for the Safe Carriage of Grain and Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC.1/Circ.66)

Other important changes include:

Cargoes not listed in the IMSBC Code (Section 1.3)

If a solid bulk cargo proposed for carriage is not covered by an individual schedule, its properties and characteristics must be provided by the shipper to the competent authority of the port of loading in accordance with Section 4 “Assessment of acceptability of consignments for safe shipment” so that the properties of the cargo may be assessed. Authorisation will be granted if no specific hazards are identified. The competent authorities of the vessel’s flag state and port of discharge must be advised thereafter.

If the competent authority of the port of loading considers that the cargo may be hazardous when shipped, advice must also be sought from the competent authority of (a) the vessel’s flag state and (b) the port of discharge so that suitable conditions for the safe carriage of the cargo can be determined, agreed and set by all three parties.

Prior to loading an unlisted cargo (either hazardous or non-hazardous), the competent authority at the port of loading is required to provide the Master with a certificate stating its characteristics and the required conditions for handling and safe carriage. They must also submit an application to IMO within one year of issuing the certificate so that the cargo may be incorporated into Appendix 1 of the IMSBC Code in due course.

Exemptions and equivalent measures (Section 1.5)

This new section allows for a competent authority or competent authorities (at the load port, the vessel’s flag state and at the discharge port) to authorise an exemption from certain requirements provided that the measures specified are at least as effective and safe as those required by the IMSBC Code. Such exemptions may be granted for a period of up to five years.

Security provisions (Section 11)

Section 11 concerns security provisions in respect of the carriage of cargoes, which by their very nature, may be used in the commissioning of unlawful acts (e.g. ammonium nitrate). The provisions of this section are, for the most part, recommendatory at present.

It should be noted that Port State Control authorities and terminals in many countries may wish to confirm that a dry cargo vessel’s Document of Compliance for the Carriage of Solid Bulk Cargoes has been amended to refer to the IMSBC Code. This may be arranged by contacting the issuing authority.

The foregoing is a brief resume of some of the issues concerned with IMSBC Code compliance. Members requiring further information should contact the Loss Prevention Department.