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The Association of Bulk Terminal Operators (ABTO) has called for systemic changes in the cargo sampling and liquefaction testing protocols for raw ores and cargoes such as nickel ore, fine wet coal, and bauxite. 

ABTO advisory panel member and Greenwich University Wolfson Centre for Bulk Solids Handling Technology head professor Mike Bradley claimed that the existing 'splash' and 'can' tests are inadequate, especially for raw ores being loaded in ports where conditions are adverse. 

Bradley said: "Such rudimentary testing is inadequate. We have seen that dangerous cargoes can pass these tests, with moisture content exceeding the allowable limits, liquefying at a later stage. 

"The efficacy of existing testing and sampling protocols does need to be addressed, especially when assessing terminal stockpiles where obtaining a decent sample is difficult. 

"Anything that can be done to improve the safety of vessels carrying dry bulk cargo that may liquefy has got to be thoroughly investigated."

"The current IMO protocol for setting transportable moisture limits and certifying actual cargo moisture content is robust for some cargo flows, but sadly falls down too often for others, as evidenced by the number of lives still being lost at sea due to cargo liquefaction."

The Wolfson Centre has finished preliminary research work on an accurate cargo liquefaction test kit.

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The proposed protocol provides an opportunity to check the condition of the cargo, quality of sampling, the veracity of certification, or effect of bad weather on moisture during loading.

ABTO chief executive Ian Adams said: "Anything that can be done to improve the safety of vessels carrying dry bulk cargo that may liquefy has got to be thoroughly investigated.

"We believe that this issue is one of the biggest challenges facing our industry."