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Top Common Cargo Inspections

Discover expert cargo inspections with Claimar safeguarding maritime transport globally through precise, specialized assessments for insurers and reinsurance companies.

Cargo inspections acts as a checkpoint for the assurance of cargo integrity and compliance throughout its journey. These surveys are evaluations aimed at verifying the quantity, quality, and condition of goods before, during, and after transport.

The scope of cargo surveys is vast, covering various types of cargo such as steels, grains, liquids (including petroleum and clean products), petrochemicals, solid cargoes, containers, RORO (Roll-On/Roll-Off) cargo, and reefer cargo. Each type of survey is tailored to the specific needs of the cargo.

The necessity for cargo inspections arises from the need to satisfy the demands of all parties involved in the transportation chain, including insurers and reinsurance companies focused on marine claims. These inspections are key for validating claims, assessing damages, and determining compliance with the terms of transportation documents and insurance policies.

The professional team is made up of cargo surveyors, good inspectors, average and claim adjusters, and product appraisers. Their duties involve a broad scope of activities, including but not limited to inspection, verification, and the generation of reports.

There are different types of inspections depending on factors such as when and where the inspection is carried out, and what is inspected. Below are some of the most common cargo inspections conducted.

1. Cargo Pre-Shipment Surveys

Pre-loading or pre-shipment inspections are conducted before the loading or shipment of goods to assess their condition and packaging. These inspections ensure compliance with the sales contract specifications or the standard practices of transportation before the goods are loaded onto vessels or other transportation vehicles. This step is essential for identifying any issues that could affect the quality or safety of the cargo during transportation.

The marine surveyor is appointed based on the location of the product before its exportation. Generally, this inspection occurs at the loading port or at the seller or supplier’s premises, prior to the cargo and goods being exported.

How cargo pre-shipment surveys benefit clients:

  1. Monitoring cargo loading operations to assess the condition of products and containers (or other means of transportation), including stuffing, stowage, lashing, and securing procedures.
  2. Conducting quantity tally verification by counting and verifying product quantities and/or packages, including cartons, boxes, bags, and barrels (weight), during loading operations and before sealing to prevent shortages.
  3. Performing cargo and stowage inspections to confirm adequate packaging in containers or vessel holds and to safeguard against damage.

An unloading inspection also occurs as cargo is removed from the shipping container or mode of transport. This inspection primarily aims to verify whether the quantity and packaging of the goods align with the specifications outlined in the unloading documents and to assess whether the goods incurred damage during transit.

Once the cargo is fully and securely loaded, a final inspection will go over the final details and ensure that the cargo fits correctly in the container or mode of transport and does not move in transit. Ensuring that the goods are properly secured with chains, ropes or belts is called lashing inspection and is especially important when dealing with goods that do not usually fit wall to wall, such as coils and pallets.

2. Container Condition Inspection

This inspection is typically performed by marine surveyors at ports or loading facilities, particularly for goods that are to be transported in containers. This process, conducted before loading, is useful not only for defining responsibility in the case of lease delivery, but also for securing safety in container transport, and to safeguard the insured from claims of container damage. 

How container condition inspection benefits clients:

  1. Checking for structural integrity and testing strength of freight containers, and identifying any existing damage to containers before cargo loading to ensure safe and secure transportation.
  2. Ensures containers are clean and free from contaminants that could affect cargo.
  3. Verifying the accuracy and completeness of shipping documentation.
  4. Checking the insulation and cooling system for refrigeration in the containers.
  5. Verifying the data plate’s accuracy, paying particular attention to the tare weight and maximum payload.
  6. Verify that the container’s markings, including the ISO code, serial number, and owner’s markings, are correct and readable.
  7. Providing advice on repairs and upkeep as needed.
    Sealing the container with authorized seals
  8. Advising a loading plan for efficient space utilization

3. Draft Survey

A Draft Survey is a method used to determine the weight of bulk cargo loaded onto or discharged from a vessel. Its primary aim is to secure an accurate count of cargo quantities, thereby aiding in the mitigation of disputes concerning cargo weight among the parties involved in the shipment.

If the weight of the cargo discharged is less than that declared in the Bill of Lading (BL), carriers are likely to face a shortage claim. In most bulk cargo commercial transactions, the parties consider the quality and quantity «final at loading.» This implies that the receiver will pay for the cargo based on the BL weight and may demand compensation in the event of weight loss.

Draft Survey involves measuring the vessel’s draft – the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull – before and after cargo operations. By calculating the change in the draft, surveyors can accurately assess the quantity of bulk cargo, such as iron ore, coal, steel scrap, grain, salt, etc.

This process is carried out by an expert marine surveyor, witnessed by on-site observers, and recorded on video. It provides crucial evidence to challenge the shipper’s declared cargo weight in a BL. By comparing the figures in the two draft survey reports (i.e., at the port of loading and before discharge), you can demonstrate that your vessel delivered approximately the same weight it received.

4. Cargo Damage Survey

The primary focus of Cargo Damage Surveys is to assess the extent and cause of damage to goods. Moreover, a cargo damage surveyor is often tasked with determining whether the damaged goods can be salvaged and arranging for their salvage.

Typically, the survey is conducted at the location where the accident or incident occurred, such as the discharging port or the receiver’s warehouse. . 

How cargo damage surveys benefit clients:

  1. Inspecting the physical condition of the cargo to identify visible damages such as dents, breaks, moisture, rust, contamination, or any other signs of deterioration.
  2. Evaluating the adequacy and integrity of packaging.
  3. If there were mixed loads, verifying if there has been cross-contamination between different types of goods.
  4. When necessary, taking samples of the cargo for more detailed analysis, especially in cases involving chemicals, food, or other sensitive goods. This includes cases where samples may need to be cut open to examine the inside, as their quality cannot be assessed by only inspecting the outer appearance.
  5. Evaluating if the damaged goods can be salvaged, considering the type of damage and the value of the goods. This includes possibilities for repair, reconditioning, or utilization of parts of the cargo as part of loss mitigation strategies.

This report, commonly utilized for insurance claims or to support a compensation claim, serves as a vital tool in aiding the determination of responsibility, liability for indemnity, and compensation, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of each party’s role and obligations in the event.

Break-bulk Survey

This involves the inspection of the hatch and the topmost cargo onboard the vessel to examine cargo stowage and condition before discharging.

Lashing Control

Lashing control inspections ensure that cargo is secured properly on board, minimizing the risk of damage during transit. This is particularly important for insurance companies in assessing the adequacy of stowage practices against damage claims.

Opening Seals/Unsealing

Inspection before discharge focuses on the integrity of seals, checking for any signs of damage or tampering. This safeguards against claims of unauthorized access or compromised cargo security.

Temperature-Controlled Cargo Inspection

Specialized inspections for cargoes requiring temperature control to verify that the cargo has been maintained within the specified temperature range throughout the journey. This is critical for insurers when dealing with claims related to spoilage or quality degradation.

Hold Inspections

Ensuring the vessel’s cargo holds are in a condition suitable for receiving cargo without causing contamination or damage, is typically conducted before loading. Inspectors check if the hold space is clean, dry, and suitable for the intended cargo.



From pre-shipment surveys that scrutinize the readiness of goods before embarkation to detailed damage assessments post-incident, each type of inspection addresses specific needs within the transportation chain, significantly benefiting insurers and reinsurance companies by mitigating risks and clarifying liabilities.

Consider partnering with experts who specialize in these critical inspections, at Claimar, we boast a team of specialists stationed around the world, ready to support your needs with precision and expertise in marine surveys.

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


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