Solid bulk cargoes (IMSBC Code)

The IMO’s International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code) specifies how solid bulk cargoes must be stowed and shipped. The IMSBC Code is part of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). You will find these rules and regulations in chapters VI (Carriage of cargoes) and VII (Carriage of dangerous goods). The IMSBC Code also pertains to seagoing vessels under 500gt. 

Please note: the IMSBC Code does not cover grain carriage. This is regulated by the International Code for the Safe Carriage of Grain in Bulk (Grain Code).

IMSBC Code classification groups

Under the IMSBC Code, cargoes are categorised in 4 groups by their hazard properties:

  • Group A: cargoes which may liquify if shipped at a moisture content exceeding their Transportable Moisture Limit (TML). For example: water and oil that can cause cargo liquefaction or cargo shifting.
  • Group B: cargoes with a chemical hazard which could give rise to a dangerous situation on a ship. Examples are self-heating, dust explosion, toxicity and oxygen extraction from the hold.
  • Group A&B: cargoes with a combination of hazards from both groups.
  • Group C: cargoes not classified under Group A or B. 

Subcategories Group B cargoes

Group B cargoes are further divided in:

  • IMDG Code classified dangerous goods which do not present a hazard when shipped in bulk.
  • Materials hazardous only in bulk (MHB). These are goods which may present chemical hazards when transported in bulk. These are hazards other than those listed in the IMDG Code.
  • IMDG Code classified dangerous goods which also may present extra MHB hazards.

Appendix 1 to the IMSBC Code lists specific characteristics, hazards, stowage and segregation, special requirements and precautions for each known solid bulk cargo. 

Certificate requirement

The IMSBC Code stipulates that some substances require a certificate of testing. These substances must be tested and certified in laboratories designated by the Netherlands. These are listed on the page Overzicht van erkende instanties voor vervoer van gevaarlijke stoffen (Overview of recognised bodies for the transport of dangerous goods, only in Dutch). You can read more about these recognised bodies in the Regeling erkende instanties vervoer gevaarlijke stoffen (Regulation on recognised bodies for the transport of dangerous goods, only in Dutch).

Whether a product needs to be tested, depends on the group it is classified in. The shipping conditions of the product may also specify when and what it needs to be tested for.

Occasionally the laboratories that are recognised by the Netherlands cannot meet the requirements of the IMSBC Code. Only in that particular case, the following applies:

  1. If the product is shipped directly from the country of origin to the country of destination, tests carried out in the country of origin will be recognised. However, the laboratory must be recognised by the competent authority of that country and there must be proof of this recognition.
  2. If transport is interrupted in the Netherlands for transhipment or unloading, but is resumed in a new transport movement, tests carried out in another EU Member State will be recognised. However, the laboratory must be approved by the competent authority of that country and there must be proof of this recognition.
  3. If transport starts in the Netherlands, sub 2 applies. 

Cargo requirements overview

Where a solid bulk cargo is specifically listed in Appendix 1 to the IMSBC Code, the conditions in Sections 1 to 10 and subsection 11.1.1 to the IMSBC Code apply. The requirements in the relevant schedule (Appendix 1) also apply. This schedule indicates, among other things: specific characteristics, hazards and special requirements in terms of stowage and segregation, the cleaning condition of the hold, weather precautions, loading, precautionary measures, ventilation, transport, unloading and (if it is a Group B cargo) emergency procedures.

Waste materials

A solid bulk cargo can also be waste. In the case of cross-border transport by a certified seagoing vessel, an EVOA-verklaring (EWSR declaration) must be present. This declaration must be made before the transport begins.

Please note: the EVOA-verklaring is different from the consent to transport the solid bulk cargo. You may only transport a product in solid bulk cargo if it is listed in Appendix 1 to the IMSBC Code. If this is not the case, you need an agreement with the exporting country.

You will find more information on the International shipment of waste page.

Certificate for carriage and handling

Solid bulk cargoes may only be transported by seagoing vessel if they are listed in the IMSBC Code. If a substance is not yet listed here and is categorised as Group A, B or A&B, the manufacturer or shipper (cargo owner) must enter a temporary agreement. This is called a Tripartite Provisional Agreement (TPA).

You apply for a tripartite agreement with the maritime authority of the country of loading. In the Netherlands, this is the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT).

Please note: for a Group C cargo, there is no tripartite agreement, but a 'notification' to be obtained from the authority of the exporting country. For this, the cargo owner must also contact the maritime authority of the country from which the product is shipped.

You will find more information on the Agreement under IMSBC Code, Section 1.3 page.