Cargo claims can happen – but the risks can be managed
The Noord Nederlandsche P&I Club (NNPC) has provided loss prevention services to its members for nearly 80 years. Loss prevention plays an integral part in managing risks and is therefore in the interest of all NNPC Members given the mutual structure of the Club.
The Master and crew play a vital role in claim prevention. This publication focuses on cargo claims and is intended to provide a general guideline on loss prevention practices on board that can assist the Master and crew during the various stages of transit in order to prevent or limit damage to or loss of cargo.
Prior to loading
Before loading commences several steps should be taken:
- Check the voyage instructions and make sure the crewmembers know what is expected of them.
- Confirm who is responsible for loading, lashing and securing.
- Pay special attention to load arrangements for heavy cargo, IMO cargoes or otherwise risky cargoes.
- Check what has been agreed about inserting remarks in the Bills of Lading. Bear in mind that the Bill of Lading is evidence of the condition of the cargo as it was brought on board the Ship. If remarks appear necessary but are not allowed the relevant cargo should be refused.
- Have the cargo spaces been properly prepared and inspected?
- Are the bilges, non-return valves and hatch rubbers in good working order and free of previous cargo remains?
Collecting and storing information
- Create a folder on your computer where information relating to the voyage will be stored, in one location.
- Perform the initial draft survey* before any cargo is loaded.
- When possible photograph and document the storage conditions of the cargo.
- Have all relevant cargo documents (for example a complete IMSBC Shipper’s Declaration) and specifications been provided? Are these specifications consistent with the actual cargo?
General good practices
- Ensure a safe working environment at all times. It is important to keep this in mind when monitoring operations.
- Ensure that the ISM and ISPS requirements are implemented, in particular when it comes to safety, watch-keeping and preventing stowaways.
- Do not sign or stamp documents that could jeopardize Owner’s rights. If required to sign documents, in particular those in a foreign language, include the following in writing underneath your signature: “for receipt only and without prejudice”.
Good practices during loading operations
During loading operations we recommend that the Master and/or crew continuously monitor the operations. We recommend in particular that the Master and/or crew:
- Document and photograph loading, stowage and lashing operations;
- Properly document the cargo condition, for example by completing the Master’s pre-loading report*.
- Perform a final draft survey* immediately after loading. The Bill of Lading weight should be consistent with the calculations.
- Do not issue “Freight Prepaid” Bills of Lading unless specifically instructed by the Owners to do so.
It is further recommended:
- That the holds be sealed immediately after loading in the presence of representatives of the cargo interests and charterer*.
- In the case of heavy-lift or project cargoes, to ensure that the cargo has been lashed as per the lashing plan and stability calculations.
The Master is, even under FIOS terms, ultimately responsible for the seaworthiness of his vessel. If, at any time, there are doubts about the loading, lashing or stowage arrangements contact the office or the Club for guidance.
When in transit, the crew should:
- Perform regular checks of the cargo, its stowage and lashing. Report any shifting of the cargo, seawater ingress, cargo sweat or other issues as soon as possible and ensure that the checks and the findings are included in the vessel’s logbooks.
- Contact the office if there is suspected or actual damage or shifting of the cargo. Photograph the situation -if safe to do so- and monitor developments.
- When under instructions to fumigate or ventilate, ensure that the conditions are suitable to do so. If the temperature of the cargo increases unexpectedly or there is visible smoke, contact the office immediately.
In the port of discharge
As most cargo issues are usually reported during or after discharge operations, it is important that the crew properly documents the discharge operations as well as any issues which may arise by following these recommendations:
- Perform the initial discharge draft survey* before commencement of discharge operations and the final discharge draft survey* after discharge operations and record the weight of the discharged cargo.
- Remove the seals in accordance with the unsealing report*. Always film or photograph the breaking of the seals.
- Discuss the discharge operations and the working procedures with the stevedores in advance.
- If the cargo is discharged onto trucks, keep a running tally of the loaded trucks.
- Unless instructed otherwise, do not discharge the cargo without presentation of the original Bills of Lading.
- Photograph and document discharge operations. Pay special attention to irregularities such as spillage or pilferage.
- Be careful who is allowed on board. Keep a visitor’s log in which the full name and capacity of all visitors are registered. Always ask for proof of identity and, in the case of surveyors, lawyers or correspondents, keep a copy of their business card on file.
* The NNPC has drafted examples of the pre-loading, hatch sealing, unsealing and draft survey reports referred to in this publication, which are available on our website.