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Legal Blog

Solid Bulk Cargo Injuries and Fatalities

Solid bulk cargo is any loose, unpackaged, and solid material that is uniform in composition and loaded directly into the cargo space of a ship. Coal, lumber, and grain are commonly carried forms of bulk cargo which each present their own risks for the ship, crew, and dockworkers. As a result, solid bulk cargo injuries and fatalities occur more frequently than with containers, oil, and gas. In an effort to increase safety, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) put in place the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC Code), which lists almost 400 types of bulk cargo, the specific hazards they entail, and the precautions that should be observed in handling them.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries on Texas related to working with solid bulk cargo, contact the maritime injury lawyers with The Krist Law Firm, P.C. right away.

For a free consultation, call (281) 283-8500 or via our online form.

2018 – Worst Year for Bulk Cargo Safety in Two Decades

Despite the efforts of the IMO to encourage safe bulk cargo carrying practices, and better safety trends across the shipping industry in general, the bulk cargo sector has suffered record work fatalities and injuries in the last year. According to data collected by, there were 24 bulk cargo related fatalities in 2018. To put this number in perspective, there were 125 fatalities reported between 1999 and 2018, meaning that 20 percent of fatalities occurred in 2018 alone.

Most of the maritime workers who perished while handling bulk cargo succumbed to asphyxiation or carbon monoxide poisoning in cargo holds, on the hold access ladder, or in adjacent spaces. Coal and lumber products such as wood pellets, wood chips, and timber caused most of these fatalities. Under the IMSBC Code, these bulk cargoes are classified under Group B, which means they carry the risk of oxygen depletion, explosions, fires, and the release of toxic gasses. The code also includes Group A cargoes, which may liquefy, and Group C cargoes, which is simply a catch-all for all other cargoes.

18 of the reported bulk cargo fatalities were shore workers, and the remaining six were sailors. Most of these incidents occur in ports where hazardous bulk cargoes are loaded and unloaded–sometimes under difficult conditions or with little oversight. It’s important to note that the writer of the report believes that their fatality and injury numbers were almost certainly an underestimation of the actual number of casualties that occurred around the world in the bulk cargo industry.

What Caused the Increase in Bulk Cargo Incidents?

In the early 1980s and early 1990s, bulk cargo fatalities occurred primarily because of sinkings. In 1990 and 1991 alone, these sinkings caused almost 250 crew fatalities. Most of the sinkings involved the sudden capsize of the vessel because of shifting cargo, or in extreme cases, a catastrophic hull failure. In both scenarios, crews had little chance to escape. This spate of bulk carrier sinkings prompted a series of regulations that resulted in newer and safer ships, along with better loading practices.

The causes and possible solutions to the current safety crisis are not as clear. Bulk cargo tonnage has been steadily increasing, so an increase in incidents is to be expected. These accidents may be the simple result of a multiplication of the inherent risks of carrying bulk cargo. Nonetheless, the industry could still take more steps to protect sailors and dockworkers. Shipping industry organizations tend to blame these accidents on human error. But human error is usually caused by poor training, bad practices, and lack of effective oversight from management.

Let The Krist Law Firm Help

The consequences of bulk cargo accidents are usually serious, and often fatal. Sailors and longshoremen alike face the risk of asphyxiation, burns, and crush injuries from this type of cargo. If you or a loved one was involved in a bulk cargo accident, the maritime injury lawyers of The Krist Law Firm, P.C. can help. We are dedicated to helping injured maritime workers and their families get the financial compensation they need after an accident.

Call us today at (281) 283-8500 or online for a free consultation of your case.