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ACQ 2016-1

California block stow

California block stow: not for normal bulkers

A problem was again encouraged recently when the owner of a normal bulk carrier agreed to a charterparty term allowing the charterer to load steel slabs using a California block stow.

As many Members will know, California block stowage involves stacking the slabs squarely on top of each other with timber dunnaging on the tank top, between each tier and as chocking between the stacks. The top of each stack are then secured with steel bands. The method is attractive to charterers, shippers and receivers because it significantly reduces stevedoring costs, dunnaging requirements and the time that it takes to load and discharge the cargo.

However, California block stowage is only acceptable for vessels with box-shaped holds - and only then when the stowage extends to both port and starboard sides, is sufficiently chocked against the hold side plating and throughout the full breadth and length of the stowage. The method should not be used on normal bulk carriers, which do not have box-shaped holds, because the slabs cannot be adequately secured and are therefore likely to shift when the vessel rolls and pitches in the seaway.

A shift in the stow could potentially cause severe damage to the cargo and/ or the vessel and could also cause significant problems with the vessel's stability. Unfortunately not all local surveyors share the Association's concerns regarding California block stowage and masters may come under significant pressure to use it.

The Association strongly recommends that Members do not agree to any charterparty terms that allow charterers to employ this imprudent method of stowage in a normal bulk carrier. Members and masters need to be aware of this potential conflict and, if there are any problems or concerns, contact the Association immediately.