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Cargo Pre-Shipment Surveys

Cargo pre-shipment surveys, also known as pre-loading surveys, are essential in ensuring the cargo’s condition meets the required standards in shipping contracts.

These surveys are particularly important for shipowners and charterers to understand the condition of unusual commodities before shipment, providing insights during transportation by sea, rail, or road.

1. Objectives of cargo pre-shipment surveys

The objectives of the pre-shipment surveys might be:

  • Determine liability limits by establishing cargo condition before shipment, identifying responsibility for any damage or loss during transit.
  • Protect carrier’s rights up to safe cargo discharge at the destination.
  • Certify cargo condition, ensuring shipment of only acceptable cargo.
  • Verify production compliance with buyer specifications and terms of purchase orders or letters of credit.
  • Identify potential risks associated with the cargo or its shipping process and provide recommendations to mitigate these risks.
  • Verify the authenticity of the cargo, particularly in transactions involving high-value or sensitive goods, to prevent fraud and ensure that the goods shipped match the goods ordered.

Basically, a cargo pre-shipment surveys is a quality control method for checking the quality of goods clients buy from suppliers. This process helps ensure that production complies with the governing specification, contract, or purchase order.

2. Pre-loading survey process

Scope of the Survey

  • The need for such surveys and the specific focus can vary based on the trade type (e.g., bulk commodities, containerized goods, specialized cargo) and the intrinsic nature of the cargo (e.g., perishable goods, hazardous materials, high-value items).
  • Tailored to ensure production compliance with the governing specifications, contracts, or purchase orders.

Participants Involved

  • Typically requested by shipowners, managers, P&I clubs, claim handling companies, etc.
  • The actual inspection and survey are carried out by professional marine surveyors. They act on behalf of the party, on behalf of local and overseas clients, who requests the survey, which can vary depending on the specific context of the shipment. Their role is to provide an independent and expert assessment of the cargo’s condition, packaging, and suitability for transport.

While not directly responsible for carrying out the surveys, other parties such as shipping agents, freight forwarders, and customs officials may also be involved in the process, especially in coordinating and facilitating access to the cargo for inspection purposes.

Location of Inspection

Inspections can occur at various locations, including on the quay (where the cargo is often staged before loading onto a vessel), at the seller’s premises (which could be a warehouse or factory), inside the shipping container (to inspect how the goods are packed and secured), or upon the ship’s arrival (to inspect the cargo as it is being offloaded).

Physical inspections are typically carried out in the country of exportation/supply. Conducting inspections at the manufacturer’s or supplier’s premises is ideal as it allows for a comprehensive review of the goods before they leave the production facility.

For bulk cargoes, inspections are commonly performed at the time of ocean vessel loading. This is crucial to assess the condition and proper stowage of such cargoes.

Occasionally, it may be necessary to conduct inspections during the production process or to witness tests at the manufacturer’s premises. This is especially relevant for specialized or high-value goods where quality control during production is critical.

Steps in the cargo pre-shipment survey process

The steps of the cargo pre-shipment survey process, considering they may vary depending on the type of inspection.
1. Request and appointment
2. Documentation review
3. Physical inspection
4. Sampling (If necessary)
5. Assessment
6. Loss Calculation (If applicable)
7. Reporting

3. The report

The report generated from a cargo pre-shipment survey is a fundamental component of the process. It serves as the official record of the inspection and is a critical document for all stakeholders involved in the shipping process.

The pre-loading report of survey will be attached with bill of lading.

In legal or compliance contexts, the report serves as a record, proving that due diligence was performed in inspecting and verifying the cargo.

In case of discrepancies or damages, the report forms the basis for insurance or legal claims. It provides concrete evidence that can be used in dispute resolution.

Reports are typically made accessible to all relevant parties and may be delivered in both hard copy and digital formats for ease of distribution and review.

4. Examples of cargo pre-shipment survey types

Steel products quality inspection

  • Focused on inspecting steel products for quality, especially for signs of oxidation or damage.
  • Common due to increasing claims for poor outturn of steel cargoes.
  • Involves technical standards like MIL-STD-105E (ISO 2859-1) and the IMDG code for handling and shipping.

Inspection of perishable goods

  • Inspection of items like fresh food and fruit, which are prone to damage or spoilage over short periods.
  • Emphasizes the condition and packaging to prevent moisture and humidity damage.

Cargo volume measurement

  • Measuring the cubic feet of cargo for freight payment purposes.
  • Includes verifying the condition and recording any visible damage for insurance, carriers, and forwarders.

Loading and Stowage Supervision

  • Supervising the loading, stowage, lashing, blocking, and bracing of cargoes.
  • Ensures safe carriage and compliance with shipping codes.

Break-Bulk Cargo Surveys

  • Surveys to ensure that bills of lading and mate’s receipts accurately reflect the condition of break-bulk cargo upon loading.

Out-Turn Surveys of Steel at Discharge Ports

  • Conducted upon arrival at the discharge port to assess the condition, damages, and any shift of cargo during the voyage.
  • Utilizes methods like Silver Nitrate testing for chloride residues.

Hatch Tightness Testing

  • Testing for «hatch tightness» using ultrasound or hose testing methods to ensure the integrity of the cargo hold.

Containerized Cargo Inspection

  • Focused on cargoes transported in containers, ensuring proper packing, condition, and security.

Project Cargo and Heavy-Lift Surveys

  • Inspecting large, heavy, or otherwise unusual cargoes that require special handling and stowage arrangements.

Specific Condition Reporting for Steel Products

  • Reporting specific conditions of steel shipments, such as rust levels, using standardized clauses as per the International Group Circular (February 1964). Examples include «Partly rust stained,» «Wet before shipment,» «Rusty edges,» etc.

For more information, detailed inquiries, or to schedule a survey, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our team of experts is ready to provide you with the knowledge, support, and services you need to ensure your cargo is handled with the highest standards of care and professionalism.

We are Claimar, your Third Party Administration (TPA) management partner, skilled and expert in marine services.


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