Fertilizer handling and transport

It is important to handle and transport fertilizer safely while minimizing deterioration in quality. Correct handling and transportation of fertilizer should be based on climatic conditions, type of fertilizer and how it is shipped (bulk or bags).

The fertilizer handling chain

The handling chain exposes the fertilizers to multiple steps and mechanical stresses before arriving with the end user. It is crucial that upon delivery the fertilizer is of satisfactory quality to be applied readily without affecting its application or subsequently crop yield.

To minimise deterioration in quality and to avoid safety problems in transport, attention should be paid both to the initial fertilizer properties and the correct fertilizer handling procedures. 

Graph of the handling chain - correct handling of fertiliser preserves quality

Safety and quality inspection of vessels and warehouses

  • Vessels shall be inspected according to international (IMO) quality and safety procedures and according to the uniform Yara inspection standard. 
  • Ensure no cross-contamination during transshipments or in the warehouse. 
  • The dynamic Angle of Repose (angle of slide) of the product can be measured by the tilting box method (IMO). 
  • No electric installation shall come in direct contact with the fertilizer. 
  • DO NOT SMOKE signs should be displayed and respected. 
  • Warehouse floor, conveyor belts and equipment must be clean, dry and free of remainders. 
  • Do not store off-spec/rejects close to the fertilizer.

Precautionary measures for preserving fertilizer bulk quality (loading of vessels, barges and trucks)

  • Clean, dry holds, free of contamination and loose rust. 
  • Tight hatch covers, sea-going vessels to be tested by using Ultrasound Leak Detector. 
  • Repair when the hatch covering is not tight (rubber gaskets, compression bar). 
  • Bulkheads of wood should be covered with plastic. 
  • Treat tank tops with rust remover before loading technical urea and calcium nitrate. 
  • Cargo should be covered completely with plastic sheeting and fastened with sticks. 
  • Loading must not occur during precipitation or heavy fog. 
  • Transport by truck or wagon should be dry, clean and covered against weather and spillage. 
  • Avoid high product drop during loading. Cascade loading spout or conveyor belts are preferred. 
  • The cargo shall be trimmed according to IMO-regulations (BC code). If possible, trimming should be restricted to the end of the loading.


  • Shore cranes or ship cranes equipped with grabs are recommended. 
  • Inspect the cargo before start of discharge, check the hatch coamings and the cargo surface. If the product is damaged (contamination/water ingress), call for surveyors and inform the master about this decision. 
  • Take photos of any damaged goods and send them to the nearest local customer service unit. 
  • If the damage has resulted in product being spilled, then this should be dealt with in accordance with the directions given on the product Safety Data Sheet (SDS). 
  • Do not remove the plastic covering the product until unloading starts.
  • Do not discharge during precipitation or heavy fog. Close the hatches. 
  • Ensure that water damaged cargo and contaminants are separated from sound product. 
  • Do not mix spilled or wet material on the quay or deck of vessel with sound product. 
  • When cleaning holds, put the bobcat into the hold as soon as a significant area of the tanktop is reached. 
  • Minimize driving into the product to reduce formation of dust and fines. 
  • Be careful in handling the product to avoid crushing. 
  • Keep unloading equipment clean and dry.
  • Fast unloading operation is important to reduce water absorption. 
  • Remove spillage from grab hopper frequently. 

The inner bag is waterproof, if any damage comes to it, the fertilizer may be affected. Therefore always be aware of any external damage caused by transportation or unloading.

Fertilizer segregation

Fertilizers consist of particles of varying size. When in motion or vibrated, the smaller and larger particles tend to separate - the fertilizer segregates. This phenomenon can take place at many points in the distribution system and especially when the fertilizer is piled in big heaps. The smaller particles will be enriched in the center of the pile. It is advisable to build up heaps by using many small ones and ensure good mixing during reclaiming.

Fertiliser segregation diagram - when fertiliser is piled it is advisable to use many small piles.

Segregation should be minimised through correct handling in order to avoid that a changing particle size distribution would induce deviating properties of the product.

Equipment for loading, discharge, storage and transport

  • Grabs, hoppers, trucks, conveyor belts and transfer points should be clean and tight. 
  • Empty the hoppers and conveyor belts before breaks. Clean if necessary. 
  • Pneumatic conveyors, chain conveyors or screw feeders are not recommended.
  • If possible, always ship full pallets. Cover the pallets with a protective sheet and store them back in the warehouse. Make sure the YaraVita products are protected from damage or dirt during transport.

Bulk storage and loading off

  • Fertilizers must be stored on clean and dry floors. Traces left on the floor will soon form a solution when exposed to humid air. 
  • Doors should be tight fitting and other openings closed. 
  • Bulk walls of wood must be covered with plastic if not impregnated. 
  • Bulk products should be covered with plastic sheets or other covering immediately after completed discharge. 
  • Coverings should overlap by at least 0.5 m, and be fastened with sticks. If several vertical sheets are used, the higher sheets need to overlap the lower ones. Also the sheet needs to cover 1 m on the floor in front of the product. 
  • When removing product from the pile do not unnecessarily expose the product to air. 
  • Re-cover immediately when the operation is completed. 
  • Avoid cross-contamination of product. 
  • If spillage, sweep and clean immediately. 
  • Avoid spillage when re-building the pile with a front-end loader; do not overfill shovel, do not drive into the pile. 
  • If lumps are observed in the pile, the product must be sieved on delivery or before dispatch. 
  • Avoid contact with heat sources. 
  • Do not drive in the fertilizer pile with the front wheel loader

Use of pay loaders

A pay loader is convenient to use when moving bulk material. However, to avoid damaging the material, it is advised that the following precautions are taken: 
  • Keep a correct angle between the bucket and the floor to minimise crushing. 
  • Do not keep it flat.
  • Avoid spillage on the floor.
  • Do not drive the wheels into the pile.

Manual handling of fertilizer bags

Protecting your body when handling a chemical product is always recommended whether the product is classified as hazardous or not. Avoid direct contact with skin and eyes. Always read the label on the package. It contains important information on the potential hazards and how to minimise the associated risks.

  1. Diagram of an ideal lifting hook - should have well-rounded edgesNo one should stand beneath or close to the load when it is being lifted, moved or emptied. 
  2. The lift should be smooth and vertical. 
  3. Once lifted, complete the task and do not leave the load hanging in the air. 
  4. Equipment used for lifting big bags must have smooth rounded edges to avoid the lifting loop being damaged. 
  5. The load must not be allowed to slide along the tines (forks) of the lifting equipment. 
  6. Particular care should be taken when cutting the bag, i.e. ideally use a long-handled knife.
Diagram showing how to lift fertiliser bags
Diagram showing how to lift fertiliser bags

Lifting and moving small fertilizer packages (manual handling)

  1. Man carrying a bag of fertiliser keeping head up and back straight to avoid injuryDo not lift or handle excess weight. Heavy lifting and handling can cause injury. 
  2. Adopt a stable position, feet shoulder width apart and get a good hold. 
  3. Keep the head up and back straight when lifting and handling. 
  4. Once load has been lifted, adjust hand position to ensure a firm grip. 
  5. When carrying, keep the load close to the body and waist. 
  6. Don’t flex the back any further while lifting. 
  7. Avoid twisting the back or leaning sideways when lifting or carrying. 
  8. Move smoothly. 
  9. Put the package down first, then adjust its position.