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Maritime safety: Loading and unloading of bulk carriers

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Maritime safety: Loading and unloading of bulk carriers

Specific rules to enhance safety for bulk carriers calling at terminals in the Member States in order to load or unload solid bulk cargoes.


Directive 2001/96/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 December 2001 establishing harmonised requirements and procedures for the safe loading and unloading of bulk carriers [see amending Acts].


This Directive lays down the suitability requirements and procedures for bulk carriers and terminals, stipulates the duties to be performed by the master and the terminal and regulates the exchange of information between them.

It applies to:

  • all bulk carriers, irrespective of their flag, calling at a terminal in order to load or unload solid bulk cargoes; and
  • all terminals in the Member States visited by bulk carriers falling within the scope of the Directive.

The Directive does not apply to facilities visited by bulk carriers only in exceptional circumstances.

The Directive lays down a number of suitability requirements for bulk carriers. In particular, the cargo holds, hatch openings, indicating lights, loading instruments and machinery and equipment for mooring and berthing operations must comply with the conditions laid down by the Directive. Compliance with the suitability criteria is monitored by the terminal visited by the vessel.

The Directive requires the terminals themselves to:

  • comply with the suitability requirements regarding the berthing of bulk carriers, the loading and unloading equipment, the training of terminal personnel and the tasks to be carried out by them;
  • appoint a representative responsible for the loading and unloading of bulk carriers calling at the terminal;
  • provide bulk carriers calling at the terminal with information manuals containing all the information needed to facilitate the cargo-handling operations at the terminal; and
  • set up and maintain a quality management system based on the ISO 9001:2000 standards.

The Directive spells out the responsibilities and duties of the master of the bulk carrier and of the terminal representative. It also lays down the procedures to be followed by the master and the terminal representative prior to and during loading or unloading operations, placing particular emphasis on the need for effective communication and cooperation between ship and terminal.

A loading or unloading plan must be agreed, and the responsibilities of the master and the terminal representative must be clearly defined.

The responsibilities of the master are to:

  • ensure safe loading and unloading of the bulk carrier;
  • provide the terminal, well in advance, with the ship’s estimated time of arrival and all the information relating to the bulk carrier and the way in which loading or unloading operations are to proceed;
  • make sure that he has received the cargo information required by the 1974 SOLAS Convention (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea);
  • discharge all the duties incumbent upon him prior to and during loading or unloading.

The responsibilities of the terminal representative are to:

  • provide the master with information regarding the berth at which loading or unloading will take place, the maximum allowable speed, any unusual arrangement and any restrictions;
  • make sure that the master has been informed as early as possible of the information contained in the cargo declaration form;
  • notify the master and the port State control authority without delay of any apparent deficiencies noted on board the bulk carrier which could endanger safety;
  • discharge all the duties incumbent upon him prior to and during loading or unloading.

The Directive recognises the principle of intervention by the competent authorities in the Member States whenever the cargo-handling operations give rise to situations which are likely to pose a threat to ship safety. However, the Directive limits intervention by the authorities to cases of this type where the master and the terminal representative cannot reach agreement on the action to be taken, since in every case primary responsibility for safe loading and unloading lies with the master.

Nevertheless, where a ship has sustained damage impairing its structural integrity, the Directive provides for action to be taken by the port State control authorities, in close consultation with the administration of the flag State or with an organisation recognised by it and acting on its behalf, in order to decide whether it is necessary to proceed with repairs. If necessary or desirable, the port State control authorities have the option of calling for a technical assessment by an organisation recognised by the European Union in order to reach a decision on the need for and urgency of repairs.

The Directive also calls for Member States to take the necessary measures to monitor implementation of the Directive and to submit reports every three years to enable the Commission to compile and analyse the information required to evaluate its implementation.

Finally, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) must be notified of the adoption of the Directive, in accordance with Resolution A.797(19) of the IMO Assembly, which requested confirmation that loading and unloading terminals for solid bulk cargoes comply with the IMO codes and recommendations on ship/shore cooperation.

The Commission implements the Directive with the assistance of the Committee on Safe Seas and the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.


The Directive follows up the Code of Practice for the Safe Loading and Unloading of Bulk Carriers (the BLU – Bulk Loading and Unloading – Code), which was adopted by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in December 1997. The aim is to reduce the number of shipping accidents involving bulk carriers during loading or unloading of solid bulk cargoes.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2001/96/EC [adoption: codecision COD/2000/121]



OJ L 13, 16.1.2002

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2002/84/EC



OJ L 324, 29.11.2002

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2001/96/EC have been incorporated into the basic text. The consolidated version (pdf) is for reference purposes only.

Last updated: 21.02.2008