The role and requirements of a surveyor in a cargo claim process is important aspect to understand. Cargo claims are becoming a big problem for exporters nowadays. If you are an exporter then you should be able to relate to this right? We at StilFresh have been able to settle cases since our creation in 2015 and survey is always a problem. In this article, we will be looking at the role of a surveyor in a cargo claims process. And how it can facilitate your claims process and help you recover your funds as soon as possible.

Most often, surveyors will go for joint surveys and not follow all the roles that will help to settle a claim. Some will not even attend or will attend and not keep the report for future use.

Who is a cargo surveyor?

A cargo surveyor inspects cargoes being transported by sea to certify compliance with national and international regulations in cargo handling and storage. The surveyor conducts inspections, surveys or examinations of marine vessels to assess, monitor and report on their condition and the products on them, as well as inspect damage caused to both vessels and cargo. This can be done by physical or digital inspection.

Types of cargo inspection.

Cargo Pre-Shipment Inspections and Pre-Loading Surveys

The type of loading is when the ship owner’s responsibility always begins in the contract of carriage. Meaning it is important to inspect the cargo at this stage. In order to document and determine the conditions of the cargo, a pre-shipment inspection has to be undertaken by the surveyor.

This inspection is the pre-loading survey. This survey can be carried out by the owner’s representatives, cargo surveyors instructed by the owner or ship’s Master and officers depending on the nature of the cargo and the trade.  

The cargo must be as described on the shipping document. This will help the cargo interests to decide whether to accept the cargo or to reject the cargo. Any differences in the mate’s receipts and bills of lading should be adequately described. 

Cargo Loading and Discharge Surveys

The Loading surveyors/Discharge inspectors assist with the loading and unloading process and their findings should comment on aspects like stowage and packaging particularly for cargoes such as crude oil, bulk cargo, bagged cargo, a product of packages, liquid cargo, etc…

 In the Unloading/discharging Survey, the following activities would be done; 

  • Vessel’s Inspection. 
  • Condition inspection.
  • Stowage control.
  • Tally inspections (controlling of correspondence i.e. packing lists and possible marking for subdivision in piles of coils, iron billets, slabs, wire rods, plates, etc.)
  • Visual inspection during loading and/or unloading.
  • Samplings according to international standards.
  • Determination of weight by means of Draft Survey and/or weighing scale and/or automatic scale with the use of conveyor belt.
  • Advice on maintenance of cargo integrity.
  • Control on reloading of merchandise toward the final destination (trucks and railway wagons).
  • Sealing/unsealing.
  • Letter protect report to Master, Concerning parties on loss/damage arising
  • Prevention loss/damage to cargo, goods, products. 
Cargo Damage Surveys

The cargo surveyor in this area uses his knowledge and skills in the carriage of cargoes. The surveyor’s practical knowledge of lashing, storage, and securing of cargoes is vital in assessing the cause, nature and extent of cargo damage which could be the role of the surveyor in the circumstance. 

When damage to cargo occurs, this can include contamination or loss. The defending party, the injured party or their underwriters will assign a cargo surveyor to inspect and investigate the subject or fact of the claim.

Also, the surveyor will collect and record the facts of the case in an independent capacity. And present it to his principal who will use this report to prove or refute the claim. This will depend on where they stand as a claimant or defendant.

Here, the surveyor may be assigned by ship owners, shippers, charterers, underwriters, P&I clubs, carriers, consignees, or lawyers. It is always advisable that the surveyor conducts a joint survey so that at least the quantum of damage or the extent of damage can be agreed upon at an early stage of the claim process. 

Also, the surveyor’s role will be to mitigate any potential further loss to the matter at hand. This may include separating the damaged cargo from the sound cargo to avoid further contamination. This can make assessing the quantum much easier for the surveyors involved.

Draft and Bunker Surveys

This is an international method of determining a cargo loaded or discharged quantum by measuring the change of displacement of a floating vessel. This information is then used by the respective party, buyer, seller, shipowner or cargo shipper in their commercial transactions or in times of dispute between interested parties. 

Surveyors conducting this draft and banker survey must have a sound background in ship stability, ship construction and naval architecture. The cargo surveyor must understand and apply the necessary formulae involved in the draught survey calculations as well as corrections.

What is the role of a cargo surveyor?

Most often, questions that arise are; What is the role of a cargo surveyor? Who exactly is the surveyor working for?

Generally, a cargo owner assigns a cargo surveyor. Nonetheless, an insurer, shipowner, cargo receiver or any other stakeholders in the industry may assign him.

His job varies from checking the conditions of the cargo as being loaded/discharged or determining the actual cargo loaded on board. While confirming that the cargo loading performs according to the law and is within the loadable limits. He also ascertained the vessel’s safety when it includes moments involved due to cargo shift which may render the vessel unsafe during the passage.

The responsibilities of a cargo surveyor include;
  1. Inspect cargo that will be transported by sea to establish that the regulations of cargo handling have been observed and assess the condition before loading.  
  2. Study vessel documents that declare cargo loading and security processes, stability factors and capacities to establish cargo capabilities according to the regulations of design and cargo.
  3. Using calculators and standard mathematical formulas to calculate the volume of stored fuel and water, hold capacities, ship stability factors and the weight of cargo.   
  4. Read draft markings and measure ship holds and depth of fuel and water in tanks. 
  5. Certifying cargo and packaging is in agreement with the regulations of health and safety.  
  6. Determine if the cargo/vessel can proceed to its destination. 
  7. Check the cargo and see if proper marking & packing methods have been used. 
  8. Recommend procedures and solutions to issues noticed. 
  9. Ensure that shipping cargo matches cargo manifests.
  10. Take photos and document findings to write a  report and inspect loaded, secured cargo and lashed to decks.
  11. Analyze data obtained from the survey, suggest recommendations with regards to vessel capacities, and produce reports of findings.   
  12. Inspect all cargo handling devices, such as hoists, boom, and derricks, to identify the need for maintenance. 

Finally, shippers should always give the surveyors roles to follow, and explain what is required of them.

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