Palm 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 Palmfasern, Palmfiber
English Palm fiber
French Crin végétal
Spanish Fibra de palma
Scientific Chamaerops humilis
CN/HS number * 5305 9 ff.

(* EU Combined Nomenclature/Harmonized System)

Product description

Palm 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 (hard fibers):

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


Linden, raffia palm, willow

Basketwork material:

Coconut fiber, rattan cane, halfa, piassava, esparto

Palm fiber is a leaf fiber (hard fiber) obtained from the leaves of the dwarf palm (Chamaerops humilis), a member of the palm family (Palmae). It is also known as vegetable horsehair.

The dwarf palm, Europe’s only wild palm, is a fan palm which grows in the western Mediterranean area forming knee-high undergrowth in North Africa and Southern Spain.

During the dry season, the fibers are obtained from the leaves by mowing, hackling, combing and spinning. The greenish fibers are traded as twisted hanks.

Quality / Duration of storage

Palm fiber has poor spinning characteristics.

If bales are moist on the outside or inside, there is a risk of discoloration (from green to black), mustiness and mold growth. 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 humidity/moisture conditions, duration of storage is not a limiting factor as regards transport and storage life.

Intended use

Vegetable horsehair is characterized by good elasticity and is thus suitable as stuffing for furniture and mattresses and for use in ropemaking and basket weaving.


(Click on the individual Figures to enlarge them.)

Drawing, palm fiber

Figure 1

Countries of origin

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

Europe Southern Spain, Southern Italy
Africa Morocco, Egypt

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Palm fibers are twisted and consolidated into 65 – 85 kg bales and strapped with nonmetallic ties.

Marking of packages
Mark07.gif (2224 bytes)

Keep dry
Mark02.gif (2816 bytes)

Use no hooks
Mark04.gif (3269 bytes)

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 palm fiber is strongly hygroscopic and readily absorbs moisture. This may lead to discoloration and fungal attack.

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

In addition, smoking is absolutely prohibited during cargo handling.

Stowage factor

3.50 m3/t (bales, unpackaged) [1]
5.66 m3/t (bales)[1]
4.53 m3/t (bales, hand compressed) [1]
2.43 m3/t (bales) [14]

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 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.

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Risk factors and loss prevention

RF Temperature

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

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

Palm 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

Palm 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]

Palm fiber is strongly hygroscopic (hygroscopicity). It must be protected from sea, rain and condensation water and also from high levels of relative humidity.

Severe exposure to moisture may cause the fibers to discolor, perhaps even to blacken. This reduces the value of the product, possibly to zero.

Moreover, after a time even slight moisture may impart a musty odor to the palm fiber. As a result, it is no longer usable for its principal application, upholstery stuffing.

Rain may have fallen on the product during storage before shipment in sheds without walls or during loading, while an excessive intrinsic moisture content combined with inadequate ventilation may result in mold growth and heating.

It is advisable to carry out moisture measurements before accepting a consignment. Moisture-damaged bales and hanks must not be accepted.

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RF Ventilation

Palm 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 – 20 changes/hour (airing)

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

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RF Biotic activity

Palm 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

Palm 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.

An 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

Palm 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 palm fiber 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. 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.

Fire-fighting is best performed using CO2 or foam. When fighting a fire, do not break the strapping 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 Palm fiber has a slight, pleasant, straw-like odor. Even slight moisture may impart a musty odor to palm fiber after a time. As a result, it is no longer usable for its principal application, upholstery stuffing.
Passive behavior Palm fiber is sensitive to unpleasant or pungent odors. For example, fish meal stowed nearby may result in considerable depreciation of the palm fiber.

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RF Contamination

Active behavior Palm fiber causes contamination by forming dust.
Passive behavior Palm 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.

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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 bale and allowing a greater supply of oxygen. Use no hooks.

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RF Toxicity / Hazards to health

Since palm 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 amount to approx. 2% due to drying of the seasonally determined water content.

Unclearly marked bales may result in losses of volume due to incorrect delivery.

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RF Insect infestation / Diseases

No risk.

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