DRY BULK, GENERAL & REEFER CARGO – Claims Prevention & Claims Handling for Damages

DRY BULK, GENERAL & REEFER CARGO – Claims Prevention & Claims Handling for Damages

Table of Contents

DRY BULK, GENERAL & REEFER CARGO – Claims Prevention & Claims Handling for Damages


A) Dry bulk & General cargo Claims Prevention – For Damage


The following precautions should be taken by the Master of the ship to avoid damage claims:

1) Hatch covers, ventilators, sounding pipes, bilge pumping systems, manhole covers, and smoke detectors should all be in sound condition.

2) Prior to loading Cargo compartments should be empty, properly cleaned, and odor-free.

3) Avoid stowage of incompatible cargoes.

4) Sufficient dunnage should be provided together with sheathing for engine room bulkheads and other bare metal surfaces.

(5) Where required sufficient separation should be provided between cargoes.

6)The cargo should be lashed and secured properly; some cargoes may need the attendance of a professional surveyor.

7) During the voyage regular checks on the cargo spaces should be made for checking the stowage, hold temperature & bilge sounding.

8) For the safe carriage of cargo appropriate manuals should be consulted for guidance. If there is any doubt the Club is always available to obtain specialist advice.



Reefer cargoes need special attention and following procedures are recommended.

1) Ensure that the cargo holds are clean. A recommended cleaning sequence is as follows.

a) With particular attention to the areas under the gratings and behind pallet doors, sweep all residues and dirt.

b) Repair any damaged gratings panels, doors & hatches.

c) By using the minimum amount of water, wash out with chemical cleaner and antifungal cleaners. 

d) Carry out ventilation as soon as possible to dry all spaces.

e) To kill & prevent mould spores, carry out anti-mould treatment. 

f) Re-ventilate, Ozonate the chambers. Re-inspect all compartments. When cleaning holds it is very important to examine every space carefully. Stevedores often pilfer cargo and hide it with a view to removing it later.


2) Ensure proper working of cargo doors, compressors & fans.

3) Test & recalibrate local and remote temperature sensors.

4) Ensure proper working of scuppers and bilge pumping systems.

5) It is a good practice to have a preloading survey of all cargo by an independent surveyor.

6) Proper entries to be recorded in deck and refrigeration logbooks once the ship has been cleaned, pre-cooled, surveyed, and accepted for loading.

7) Full carrying instructions with respect to stowage, temperatures, etc. should be provided by the shipper. If no instructions are given a process should be made in writing and the cargo carried in accordance with recommended practice.

8) Prior to loading or discharging, the storage shed, or wagon should be inspected for cleanliness and if necessary, a written protest made for noncompliance. Cargo should not be landed on a quay unless dunnage or pallet boards are laid down. If it is necessary to use dunnage in the ship it should be inspected before use and must be in good condition. Wet or damp dunnage or pallets should never be used.

9) On the quay regular random checks of core temperatures preferably using a digitron type probe thermometer should be carried out by ship’s personnel & recorded. The quality and condition of cargo should be checked & ensured that it is as per the shipper’s declaration.

a) Fruit – Must be firm and unblemished and is normally shipped green. Careful temperature control allows gradual ripening on passage. Problems with fruit often occur at the end of the growing season.

b) Frozen products: Should be hard, firm, and unblemished, and when knocked give a solid ring. Any evidence of re-freezing or bleeding inside the wrapper (evidenced by pink ice under the wrapper) must be rejected. It is important to ensure that wrappers and cartons are in good clean condition, else the cargo may be rejected at the discharge port.

c) Halal (Mohammedan killed): This product has restricted “life” for delivery, and it is essential to get the kill date on loading. “Life” is usually three months and cargo older than that may not be accepted.

10) Clean holds and good stowage are essential. The Delivery and return air ducts must be kept clear. For paint and varnish in hatches, special products must be used which have a “food safe certificate”. New paint or varnish should not be applied less than four days before loading cargo.

11) Particularly in ports with high ambient temperatures, during loading /discharging, it is essential to maintain hold temperatures by putting on fans whenever possible.

12) Once the cargo is on board a daily temperature should also be entered in the deck log book. A reefer logbook must be kept and signed by the Reefer engineer, Chief engineer, and Master.

13) A constant watch must be kept to avoid any pilferage.


B) Dry bulk & General cargo Claims Handling – For Damage


If cargo damage occurs during a voyage or during discharge, the Club should be notified immediately in consultation with the carrier’s concerned head office.

Normally a surveyor is instructed to inspect the cargo at the first available opportunity. Normally it is possible to arrange a joint survey with the consignee so that allowances are agreed upon and inflated claims avoided.

When a cargo problem first arises, the initial notification should contain as much information as possible so that the Club can quickly make a preliminary evaluation of the seriousness of the claim and determine whether specialist surveyors or other experts should be sent to attend to the problem.

Mainly in a down market, consignees may attempt to refuse delivery of cargo, by alleging such extensive damage that it amounts to a total loss. These allegations are often not justified, and a refusal to take delivery usually causes serious operational problems. 

(For the academic knowledge of Masters, in such circumstances, the Club’s first task is to attempt to persuade the receivers to take the cargo and subsequently, if they have the evidence for it, to present a claim for damage. In some countries, the Courts will make an order to that effect, although security for potential cargo liability may also be demanded.

If it is necessary to do so, the Club can try to negotiate a reasonable depreciation allowance, and on that basis persuade the receivers to take delivery.

It is often worth negotiating with the cargo underwriter’s surveyor since his principals will usually wish to avoid payment of a total loss. If an agreement cannot be reached with the receivers, and if the local Courts will not assist, the salvage market can be investigated to see whether alternative buyers can be found for the damaged cargo).

In cases of alleged cargo damage, the burden is normally on the carrier to show that due diligence has been exercised to make the vessel seaworthy at the commencement of the voyage, and to establish one or more grounds that constitute a defense to liability under the Hague or Hague-Visby Rules. 

The following information will normally be required by the surveyor appointed by the Club

a) Vessel’s previous history, including class surveys and maintenance programs. 

b) Information on the vessel’s previous voyages, to check whether there is a recurring problem or whether damage may be due to earlier cargoes. 

c) Investigative inquiries at the loading and intermediate ports to know the condition of the cargo on loading and during the voyage.

d) Statements may be required from the ship’s personnel and other witnesses. It is important that statements are only made to those representing the vessel’s interest.

Officers and crew should be instructed not to make comments to anyone representing cargo or other interests. Cargo surveyors and others not acting for the shipowner should not be allowed on board the vessel without the Owner’s and Club’s approval.

e) The documents which will be required are the copies of the Bill of lading, the charter party, any written instructions from the shipper concerning the carriage of the cargo, loading and discharge tallies and surveys, and relevant log extracts. Previous difficulties with the same kind of cargo. 

It should be remembered that the club should be notified immediately if there are any claims from cargo interest.


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