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If the cargo and/or packaging is damaged or otherwise defective or inadequate, the bill of lading should be claused accordingly. Phrases such as “clean on board” and “in apparent good order and condition” should be avoided and the Master should mark the face of the bill of lading with details of the damage or, in the words of the Hague-Visby Rules, describe the “apparent order and condition” of the cargo.

If the cargo is seriously damaged, or if the Master is unsure of the extent of the damage, especially in the case of steel cargoes, the Master should contact the correspondent to arrange for a survey. Pre-loading surveys can be of considerable assistance to the carrier in defending a cargo claim or avoiding a dispute altogether in instances where there has been pre-shipment damage. If the shipper objects to the clausing of the bill of lading, the Master is free to request the shipper to replace the damaged goods, however, this may not always be practical.

If there appears to be no damage to the cargo but the Master cannot be sure, he/she should write on the bill of lading that the cargo was received “in apparent good order and condition”.

The bill of lading must also record the correct quantity of cargo loaded. If the vessel cannot determine the accurate weight of the cargo, the bill of lading should be claused “weight and quantity unknown” or “said to weigh”. The Master should note on the face of the bill of lading if the vessel’s figures differ from the shore figures.