Coconut fiber [German version]

Table of contents

Product information
  Container transport
  Cargo securing

Risk factors and loss prevention:
Temperature Odor
Humidity/Moisture Contamination
Ventilation Mechanical influences
Biotic activity Toxicity / Hazards to health
Gases Shrinkage/Shortage
Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion Insect infestation / Diseases

Product information

Product name

German Kokosfasern
English Coconut fiber, coir
French Fibre de coco
Spanish Fibra de coco
Scientific Cocos nucifera
CN/HS number * 5305 1 ff.

(* EU Combined Nomenclature/Harmonized System)

Product description

Coconut fiber belongs to the category fibers/fibrous materials, which are classified as follows [24]:

Plant hairs:

Cotton seed-hairs
Kapok tree fruit hairs

Stalk fibers from dicotyledonous plants (soft fibers):

Flax, ramie (fine spinnable fibers)
Hemp, jute, kenaf (coarse spinnable fibers)

Leaf fibers from monocotyledonous plants (hard fibers):

Sisal, Manila hemp, palm fibers (poor spinning characteristics)


Linden, raffia palm, willow

Basketwork material:

Coconut fiber, rattan cane, halfa, piassava, esparto

Coconut fiber is obtained from the fibrous husk (mesocarp) of the coconut (Cocos nucifera) from the coconut palm, which belongs to the palm family (Palmae).

Coconut fiber has a high lignin content and thus a low cellulose content, as a result of which it is resilient, strong and highly durable. The remarkable lightness of the fibers is due to the cavities arising from the dried out sieve cells.

Coconut fiber is the only fruit fiber usable in the textile industry. Coir is obtained by retting for up to 10 months in water followed by sun-drying. Once dry, the fiber is graded into „bristle“ fiber (combed, approx. 20 – 40 cm long) and „mattress“ fiber (random fibers, approx. 2 – 10 cm long).

Quality / Duration of storage

The best grade fibers are light in color, gold-yellow (fiber from not yet completely ripened nuts) or brown (fiber from ripe nuts).

An excessively high water content within the bales results in self-heating and decay during long voyages. A moisture measurement must therefore be carried out before accepting the consignment and moisture-damaged bales must be rejected.

Subject to compliance with the appropriate temperature and moisture conditions, duration of storage is not a limiting factor as regards transport and storage life.

Intended use

Coconut fiber is used to produce hawsers, ropes, cords, runners, mats, brooms, brushes, paint brushes and as stuffing for mattresses and upholstered furniture.


(Click on the individual Figures to enlarge them.)

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Figure 1
Drawing, coconut fiber

Figure 2Figure 2
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Figure 3

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Countries of origin

This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.

Africa Tanzania, Kenya
Asia Thailand, Sri Lanka

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Coconut fiber is transported in bales (compressed and uncompressed), in hanks and in rolls. The fibers are sometimes wrapped in jute or bamboo mats or are also shipped unpackaged. Steel strapping and coir cordage are used to ensure that packages hold together better.

Marking of packages
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Keep dry
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Use no hooks
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Keep away from heat
(solar radiation)

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Symbol, Class 4.2

Spontaneously combustible,
Class 4.2 IMDG Code
Symbol, Class 4.1

Fire hazard
(Flammable solids),
Class 4.1 IMDG Code
Symbol, general cargo

General cargo

Means of transport

Ship, truck, railroad

Container transport

Standard containers , subject to compliance with water content of goods, packaging and flooring.

Cargo handling

In damp weather (rain, snow), the cargo must be protected from moisture, since coconut fiber is strongly hygroscopic and readily absorbs moisture. This may lead to staining of the bales, decay and mold growth and to rusting of steel strapping. Rusty steel strapping contaminates the coconut fiber and reduces its value.

Do not use hooks for cargo handling, since they may lead to sparking when they come into contact with the strapping.

In addition, smoking is absolutely prohibited during cargo handling.

Stowage factor

2.83 m3/t (bales) [1]
2.79 m3/t (bales) [11]
3.11 – 3.68 m3/t (bales, compressed) [14]
approx. 5.66 m3/t (bales, uncompressed) [14]
4.81 – 5.38 m3/t (hanks) [1]
4.74 – 5.30 m3/t (hanks) [11]

Stowage space requirements

Cool, dry


Fiber rope, thin fiber nets

Cargo securing

The cargo is to be secured in such a way that the bales/hanks or strapping are not damaged. Undamaged strapping is essential to maintain compression of the bales during transport. If the strapping is broken, compression is diminished, which at the same time results in an increased supply of oxygen to the inside of the bales. This in turn increases the risk of combustion or feeds a fire which has already started. Bursting or chafing of steel strapping may lead to sparking and external ignition.

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Risk factors and loss prevention

RF Temperature

Coconut fiber requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

Favorable travel temperature range: no lower limit – 25°C

Coconut fiber must be stowed away from heat sources.

Every hold should be equipped with means for measuring temperature. Measurements must be performed and recorded daily.

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RF Humidity/Moisture

Coconut fiber requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

Designation Humidity/water content Source
Relative humidity 65% [1]
Water content 12% [14]
Maximum equilibrium moisture content 65% [1]

Coconut fiber is strongly hygroscopic (hygroscopicity). It must be protected from sea, rain and condensation water and also from high levels of relative humidity, if decay, staining, self-heating, mold, attack by microorganisms and rusting of the steel strapping are to be avoided.

It is advisable to carry out moisture measurements before accepting a consignment and, where seawater damage is suspected, to carry out a seawater test using the silver nitrate method. Moisture-damaged bales and hanks must not be accepted.

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Figure 8
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Figure 9
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Figure 10
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Figure 11

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RF Ventilation

Coconut fiber requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions (SC VI) (storage climate conditions).

If the product is loaded for shipment in a dry state, it does not have any particular ventilation requirements. Problems arise if the product, packaging and/or ceiling/flooring are too damp. In this case, the following ventilation measures should be implemented:

Air exchange rate: 10 changes/hour (airing)

Since coconut fiber very readily absorbs oxygen, before anybody enters the hold, it must be ventilated and, if necessary, a gas measurement carried out, since a shortage of oxygen may endanger life.

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RF Biotic activity

Coconut fiber displays 3rd order biotic activity.

They belong to the class of goods in which respiration processes are suspended, but in which biochemical, microbial and other decomposition processes still proceed.

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RF Gases

Coconut fiber very readily absorbs oxygen. An oxygen shortage may therefore arise in closed holds and containers. Before anybody enters such holds, the holds must be ventilated and, if necessary, a gas measurement carried out.

The increase in CO2 and CO content indicates a cargo fire. The TLV of the hold air is 0.49 vol.%.

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RF Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion

Coconut fiber has an oil content of 2 – 5% (coconut oil).

Coconut fiber is assigned to Class 4.1 of the IMDG Code (Flammable solids). However, its specific characteristics and negative external influences (see below) may cause them to behave like a substance from Class 4.2 (Substances liable to spontaneous combustion) of the IMDG Code or ADR.

Its high cellulose content makes coconut fiber particularly liable to catch fire through external ignition. Therefore, protection from sparks, fire, naked lights and lit cigarettes must always be provided. Smoking is absolutely prohibited. Sparks may arise from bursting or chafing of the steel straps (and also as a result of inadequate cargo securing in the hold or container) and cause a cargo fire. Lightly compressed bales in particular ignite easily, while strongly hydraulically compressed bales rarely catch fire because they are so compact. In accordance with the IMDG Code, ventilation openings leading into the hold should be provided with spark-proof wire cloth.

Spontaneous combustion may occur as a result of exposure to moisture, animal and vegetable fats/oils, oil-bearing seeds/fruits, copra and raw wool. This risk is further increased by the coconut oil present in coconut fiber.

Coconut fiber is very highly susceptible to self-heating due to moisture. Bales compressed in an excessively moist condition are at risk of heating during extended voyages and storage, with the result being decay rather than spontaneous combustion. It is usually „mattress“ fibers which are affected in this way, due to the vegetable flesh still adhering the fibers.

Fire-fighting is best performed using CO2 or foam. It is very difficult to extinguish a fire because of the excess of oxygen in the coconut fiber, which maintains the fire from the inside. When fighting a fire, do not break the steel straps or open the bales, since relieving the compression increases the oxygen supply and makes it impossible to fight the fire effectively.

Water must not be used for fire-fighting, as this results in damage to the product.

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RF Odor

Active behavior Coconut fiber has a slight, unpleasant odor. A conspicuous musty odor indicates moisture damage inside the bales. Since coconut fiber may easily cause odor-tainting, it must not be stowed together with odor-sensitive products (e.g. foodstuffs).
Passive behavior Coconut fiber is sensitive to unpleasant or pungent odors.

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RF Contamination

Active behavior Coconut fiber causes contamination due to the coconut oil it contains and must therefore be stowed away from easily stained products.
Passive behavior Coconut fiber is sensitive to contamination by dust, dirt, fats/oils and rust as well as oil-containing goods, such as oil-bearing seeds/fruits, copra, raw wool etc., since oil-impregnated fibers promote self-heating/cargo fire. Holds or containers must accordingly be clean and in a thoroughly hygienic condition. Rust contamination may be caused by rusty steel straps, among other things.

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RF Mechanical influences

Care must be taken to ensure that mechanical influences do not cause damage to strapping, which increases the risk of fire by relieving the compression of the bales and allowing a greater supply of oxygen.

Photo, coconut fiber

Figure 12

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RF Toxicity / Hazards to health

Since coconut fiber is highly oxygen-absorbent, a life-threatening shortage of oxygen may arise in the hold or container. Thus, before anybody enters the hold, it must be ventilated and, if necessary, a gas measurement carried out. The TLV for CO2 concentration is 0.49 vol.%.

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RF Shrinkage/Shortage

Weight losses may arise due to drying of product which has been packaged when excessively moist.

Losses of volume may arise due to incorrect delivery, especially for hanks and rolls.

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RF Insect infestation / Diseases

Insects, in particular ants and beetles, may damage the bales during storage ashore.

Moisture results in attack by microorganisms:
mildew stains: brownish to black spots with a musty odor caused by bacteria (Mesentericus, Subtilis and Proteus species).
mold: green mold caused by Penicillium glaucum and Aspergillus glaucus. Red mold caused by Penicillium purpurgenum.

Development of these microorganisms may go as far as to result in localized decay and complete breakdown of the fiber/fabric.

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