Five years ago, an article in Gard News issue No. 1741 set out guidelines to be followed by shipowners and operators when contracted to carry bagged rice. Gard's Marseilles correspondents have recently issued a reminder of the risks, problems and potential costs and liabilities which a shipowner can face if appropriate steps are not taken before, during and after a voyage to avoid or minimise exposure for loss of or damage to bagged rice. The advice is based on Gard's correspondents' experience in West Africa, but may apply to other areas as well. They refer particularly to the three deadly "S"s:
- Shortage (either of bags themselves or as a result of torn bags);
- Sweat or Sea water damage;
- Stevedore damage;
to which a fourth can be added: Spurious Customs fines, which are often imposed when cargo is said to be short-delivered.
According to the correspondents, a lot of work can be done before a single bag is loaded. Much of this work can be described as loss prevention and risk management: being aware of the interests of the other parties involved (shippers, charterers, buyers, cargo insurers, etc.) and the steps they take to protect their position. It includes:
Quality control at loadport
Where is the cargo coming from (i.e., trucks, barges, direct from the warehouse)? For how long has it been stored at the loadport(s), what is its humidity level and temperature, is it in a sound condition for carriage?
Are those on board satisfied with the dunnage provided (and if not, what can they do about it), are they satisfied that appropriate ventilation channels are built into the stow? If there is more than one discharge port, has the cargo been separated so that the correct quantity (no more and no less) for each port is easily identifiable? Have the hatches been sealed after loading and, if so, have the shippers and charterers been invited to witness the sealing?
Has the master received any instructions from shippers/charterers concerning ventilation and, if so, are these being followed? If not, why not? Are the weather conditions being monitored and recorded properly? Is ventilation being carried out in accordance with correct procedures?
At discharge port
Assuming that seals were applied to the hatches at the loadport(s), have the receivers and charterers been invited to witness the unsealing? Will a draft survey be carried out? Has the shipowner arranged for an outturn tally (covering the quantity/number of bags) and survey (quality/condition)? Does the owner have his own (not charterers') protecting agent? Are appropriate protests being made? The stevedores' outturn report is often a vital document, which is given a lot of weight by local courts and Customs officials. The master should ensure this is properly and appropriately claused/endorsed.
One important principle, which applies to all these points, is that it is essential that the necessary evidence, both written and visual (photographic and/or video), of all steps taken and instructions given is obtained and retained. The primary responsibility in this respect is on those on board, but it is important that they receive full support from the shipowner and from his representatives and agents.
Remember that evidence is, as always, the key to protecting the interests of the shipowner.
We thank Messrs ETIC sas, Marseilles for providing the information on which this article is based.
1 "The carriage of bagged rice from the Far East to West Africa".
|Gard News 196, November 2009/January 2010|
|Any comments to this article can be e-mailed to the Gard News Editor.|