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Cargo claims in Africa

Over the years, StilFresh has received questions from clients of a varied nature. Sometimes, the frustration in the client’s voice is quite loud when they just don’t seem to understand why a cargo claim as clearcut as theirs is being rejected by the shipping line. Usually, this stems from their inability to prove the loss suffered.

To prove your loss, especially for perishable cargo, remember the following:

1: Are you the owner of the cargo? How can you prove that?

A small trader from South Africa ships cargo from port of Cape Town to Jebbel Ali to a buyer. The shipper has the following documents to support title to the goods:

  • Bill of lading
  • Commercial invoices

But not the assignment of rights! Obtaining an assignment usually causes problems as we are instructed long after the deal has gone through and sometimes, relationships between the seller and buyer have broken down. We hear questions like: why do I need this when I was the owner of the goods or the buyer has not even paid me yet so why does he hold rights to my goods. The reason is this:

Under most sales terms (except D terms) the risk in the goods passes to the consignee once the goods are loaded on the vessel or even before. As such, the title to claim vests with the consignee. See the below chart for ease of reference.

2: Proving quality and quantity of cargo at loading

There are various ways which you can prove cargo quality or quantity at loading (We shall discuss about bulk cargo in a separate post). For fruits and veg, you need harvest dates and storage temperatures. Certain certificates can also help in confirming the quality of the cargo such as:

  • Psytosanitory certificate
  • PPECB Certificate (in South Africa)
  • Global G.A.P.
  • Export certificate
  • Pre loading survey
  • Tally sheet
  • Packing list

3: Proving quality and quantity of cargo at discharge

Usually, upon discharge, the best way to record the quality and quantity of cargo is by use of a surveyor. In certain cases, ethylene levels have to be tested by an expert. But the most important role in my opinion is played by the consignee. When the container arrives, the consignee is usually the first to see the container and some times, a joint survey is arranged when the container has already left the premises. As such, the consignee must take pictures of the seal, container structure, temptales, vent settings etc. They should also record the temperature of the warehouse.

One must not forget the importance of evidence of the value of the cargo at discharge. The quantum is usually calculated by the Arrived Sound Market Value less the Arrived Damaged Market Value.

Thank you for reading and sharing your experiences.

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