In recent months we have seen an increase in shortage claims in respect of discharging dry bulk cargo, particularly powdery or granulated cargo and grains, most notably in North African ports and European ports (such as UK and Spain).
The shortage claims that we have seen are in most cases founded on a discrepancy between shore scale measurements and draft survey figures and in particular where the difference is substantial (usually above 0.5-1% which is generally regarded as allowed trade margin). In such cases the question arises which weighing method will take precedence over the other. Although there is no legal hierarchy, we note that in certain jurisdictions (such as for example Morocco or Algeria) Courts tend to rely mainly on results obtained by shore weighbridge scales in the discharge port, rather than draft survey figures, as shore weighbridge scales are thought to be more reliable (certainly when weigh bridge slips and calibration certificates are presented).
In order to minimize exposure to shortage claims we recommend our members to take follow precautionary steps when carrying bulk cargoes:
- Conduct a draft survey at both load and discharge port and to provide a copy thereof to shippers and receivers. The draft surveys should preferably be done in the presence of shippers/receivers and the Master should issue a formal LOP protesting against any difference in weight recorded by shore weighing scales.
- Perform a hatch sealing and prepare a hatch sealing and opening report. It is recommended that photographs are taken of the holds before, during and after loading and discharging. In this respect members should note that a Crew Instruction Manual is available which is available on the NNPC website through following link.
- During discharge any spillage during the cargo operations must be reported and protested against by way of a formal LOP issued by the master.
- Incorporate a clause in the C/P explicitly placing the responsibility for loading and discharging operations on Shippers/Receivers. The C/P should also specify that the loaded and discharged weight will be determined by a fully and finally binding ship’s draft survey. The cargo interests should be invited and are ideally to jointly attend the draft survey.
- Ensure that the Inter-Club New York Produce Exchange Agreement is incorporated in the C/P so that liability shortage claims can be apportioned 50/50 between owners and charterers.
- When a letter of protest alleging cargo shortage is presented for signature to the Vessel, the Master may consider signing such letter of protest provided that his signature is accompanied by a remark that “all holds are empty and the full B/L quantity has been discharged”.
- If certain ports are known for recurring shortage claims (possibly with the same receivers) members may consider appointing an independent surveyor to conduct hatch unsealing and/or assist with performing draft surveys.
If and when presented with a letter of protest alleging cargo shortages we advise members to contact NNPC via email@example.com.