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Reefer Cargo Surveys: Function and Role in Claims

Reefer cargo surveys are an essential component to ensure that products transported in reefer containers arrive in optimal condition, which means keeping the temperature of the products at a level where metabolic and microbiological deterioration is minimized.

Reefer cargo, in this context, primarily refers to these categories of goods:

  1. Frozen Cargo: Mainly includes Frozen Food items that must be stored at temperatures below freezing to maintain their quality and extend shelf life.
  2. Chilled Cargo:
    • Fresh Produce: Vegetables and fruits that require temperatures just above freezing to maintain freshness without damage.
    • Seafood: To prevent spoilage and maintain texture and taste, fresh seafood is kept chilled, not frozen.
    • Dairy Products: Milk, cheese, and yogurt are refrigerated to prevent bacterial growth and maintain quality.
  3. Temperature-Controlled Cargo:
    • Medical Supplies: Certain medical supplies must be kept at controlled temperatures to preserve their effectiveness. This includes items like vaccines and some biological medications.
    • Pharmaceuticals: Many products need specific temperature conditions to ensure their chemical stability and efficacy.

In this classification, we exclude items that do not require refrigeration but still need to be protected from extreme temperatures and environmental factors such as humidity and light. These include non-perishable food items such as canned goods and dry foods, general merchandise, electronics, and other non-temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals.

Therefore, the primary goal of refrigerating cargo is to maintain its quality and extend its shelf life until it reaches the consumer.

The uninterrupted maintenance of the cold chain is crucial for the transport of refrigerated cargoes. The use of reefer containers is indispensable in this process. Not only do these containers protect the cargo from temperature deviations, but they also ensure that the goods remain within safe consumption parameters.

Carriers, cargo owners, and insurance companies, among others, primarily conduct reefer cargo surveys as they are instrumental in the event of claims involving loss or damage to reefer cargo. But let’s delve deeper into what reefer cargo surveys cover.

1. What are Reefer Cargo Surveys?

Reefer cargo surveys are specific inspections and evaluations of cargo in reefer containers.

The main purposes of reefer cargo surveys are:

  • Assessing the condition of the container and cargo
  • Monitoring temperature throughout transportation
  • Checking proper stowage and securement of cargo
  • Ensuring compliance with international and safety regulations
  • Conducting pre-loading and discharge inspections to assess cargo and container condition
  • Preventing losses by identifying potential risks and issues
  • Documenting and preparing detailed reports

2. How Reefer Cargo Surveys Work

Location and Time

Reefer cargo inspection services may be conducted at one or several of the following locations, covering essential aspects of the process across various stages of the supply chain.

Reefer Cargo Surveys at Loading Ports/Terminals

Reefer cargo surveys might be conducted at ports or terminals to focus on verifying that the cargo is in good condition and properly packed to withstand the voyage.

Before powering on, a general inspection checks for any physical damage to the unit and its components, including cables, plugs, and compressors, while ensuring cleanliness and verifying the levels and conditions of refrigerants and lubricants. The insulation values of electrical components like compressors, motors, and heaters are also assessed.

After activation, the inspections continue with operational checks to confirm the correct functioning of phase correction contractors, ensure no abnormal noises are present, and verify that all fans and blowers are oriented correctly. Temperature settings are adjusted to specific levels such as —18°C, and various cycles like manual defrost are initiated to test the unit’s performance. Various parameters such as oil levels, compressor pressure, and electric currents are measured throughout the process. The final checks involve securing the unit’s doors, ensuring all settings are correctly dialed in, and leaving the unit in a safe state for transit. This detailed survey ensures that reefer units are prepared to maintain the required conditions, safeguarding the quality and safety of the cargo.

Reefer Cargo Surveys Onboard the Vessel

These are conducted before, during, and after the voyage to ensure that all systems are operational, the settings are correct, and the cargo is properly loaded and secured.

Continuous monitoring allows for the verification that the refrigeration units are functioning properly and maintaining the necessary temperature and humidity levels.

In addition, regular checks are carried out to ensure compliance with required conditions, proper functioning of equipment, and the absence of damage or spoilage to the cargo.

Post-voyage inspections assess the overall condition of the cargo before offloading to ensure there is no degradation in quality or breaches in the cold chain.

Transshipment Points
If the cargo is transferred from one vessel to another or moved between different modes of transport (like from ship to truck), a survey might be conducted to ensure that the cargo has maintained its integrity during the transshipment.

Reefer Cargo Surveys at the Final Destination Warehouses

Conducting reefer cargo surveys in warehouse settings complements the needs of reefer cargo by providing a controlled environment for detailed inspections.

The availability of advanced technological tools, such as temperature loggers and precision scales in warehouses, enhances the accuracy of these surveys.

Moreover, the secure and well-equipped environment minimizes risks such as cargo tampering and helps in resolving any identified issues promptly, ensuring that the reefer cargo maintains its intended quality throughout the supply chain.


3. The Role of Reefer Cargo Surveys in Claims Handling

Reefer cargo surveys provide essential evidence about the condition of cargo at the time of handover. These surveys are crucial in the claims handling process, as they fulfill several key roles:

  • Identification of Cause: Reefer cargo surveys are instrumental in identifying the source of damage, a critical step in establishing liability. This determination is essential as it dictates who is accountable for the damages incurred.
  • Assessment of Damage: These surveys deliver a precise assessment of the damage. The accuracy of this evaluation is vital for determining the extent of the loss, which directly affects the amount of compensation that may be awarded.
  • Facilitation of Negotiations: A well-documented damage survey supports the negotiation process, helping all parties involved reach equitable settlements

The documentation and findings from reefer cargo surveys not only support claims but also play a crucial role in subrogation, where insurers seek recovery from third parties responsible for the loss. Understanding the full scope and implications of these surveys is essential for those involved in reefer cargo claims.

Are you dealing with a reefer cargo claim? Contact our team today to manage your claim process efficiently. Our experts are ready to assist you every step of the way to ensure you receive the guidance and support needed to manage your claim effectively.

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


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