Â This follows the Club's investigation of a recent cargo damage claim which suggested that the shippers and charterers had tried to construct a variation of the California Block Stow, which has been a cause of concern in the industry for some time.
In the latest issue of its StopLoss Bulletin, the London Club notes, "The California Block Stow method in self-trimming bulk carriers was developed by steel importers in California, keen to minimise the high stevedoring costs at local ports, and involved the construction of a block of slabs directly under the hatch square.
"The advantage to importers of the block stow â€“ over a conventional stow across the full width of the hold â€“ was that it maximised the amount of cargo that could be discharged without the need to use forklifts to carry slabs from the wings to the hatch square. But, as the spaces between the sides of the block stow and the upper and lower wing tanks were left void, the stow was free-standing. The industry concern was that the advantage to cargo interests came at a disadvantage to carriers in the form of the serious consequences of a shift of such a stow."
The claim recently investigated by the Club involved a cargo of mixed steel products shipped from South America to Europe. Part of the cargo was wrapped bundles of hot rolled steel plates and, rather than leaving the block stow free-standing, the shippers/charterers had tried to support the cargo by means of wooden buttressing. But when the ship encountered heavy weather on passage, the wooden supports were unable to prevent the cargo shifting and, in one of the affected holds, the stow collapsed entirely. The Club concludes that cases such as this illustrate the importance of exercising special care in the face of plans involving the use of block stows. It advises its members to seek technical guidance â€“ either directly or through the Club - if they have any doubts.