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|Photo by Bobby Mikul:|
One of the more common issues dealt with by admiralty lawyers, paralegals, insurance professionals, freight forwarders, steamship agents, and marine surveyors is the ocean cargo claim. Many cargos are temperature sensitive, some like bananas must be transported within a very narrow range; too warm and they ripen before arrival, too cool and they turn black. The reason most "banana boats" are white is temperature control. Mere refrigeration doesn't do the trick. The proper temperature range is well above typical refrigeration temperatures and below the typical ambient temperature in the tropical and subtropical zones these ships usually transit. Frozen cargos of other food products can be lost should the refrigeration equipment fail for a protracted period. Sweat damage is difficult to control. The interior sides of ships "sweat" under a variety of circumstances. Tainting is another source of loss. Tainting occurs when cargo is not properly segregated and odors or fluids or other properties of the different cargos mix. The professional ship's officer is tested on his or her ability to manage cargo, including the supervision of the loading of the ship in such a way that all aspects of loss control related to environmental conditions are balanced against requirements for cargo segregation and order of lading and discharge.
The proper handling of ocean cargos is both an art and a science. Licensed merchant marine officers of all nations are trained in these arts and sciences and tested for competency in this skill set as part of their occupational license examinations. Yet every day around the world tainted and spoiled, and ruined cargo arrives in ships. Sometimes cargo from ships is discovered in a ruined state ashore on the dock or in the dockside wharehouse. Did it spoil from mishandling on the ship, on the dock, or was it ruined at the foreign loading point before it was ever brought aboard? This is a bit of a mystery that usually requires the attentions of a skilled marine surveyor, usually an experienced merchant marine officer, and the insurance claims adjusters for the consignors, consignee, ship, and cargo handlers and storage organizations.
Physical mishandling of the cargo or cargo hold environmental failures aren't the only sources of ocean cargo losses. Seizure by customs authorities, or customs authorities delays that lead to spoilage due to natural causes are common sources of loss. There are complex manifesting, notice, and declaration requirements involved in moving ocean cargos across international borders. within the transportation system more than one actor has responsibilities for documents and notifications required by the world's customs services. The consignor, the freight consolidator or broker, the ship, and the ship's local agent all have responsibilities for satisfying the customs requirements. Who pays when a customs seizure or delay eliminates or ruins the cargo? It is highly unlikely that it will ever be the customs service or its personnel.
So whether you are a lawyer or paralegal new to ocean cargo claims, or a ship's officer, marine surveyor, freight forwarder or broker you will want to have a general knowledge of ocean cargo claims. American Admiralty Books has two suggestions for starting your study or having on hand a reference, and the first one is free. The Los Angeles, California law firm of Countryman and McDaniel offers a free on line guide to the ocean cargo claims service as part of their firm's web site. Just follow our hyperlink and you're in. http://www.cargolaw.com/claims.ocean.html
For a short (36 pages) and concise desk top reference check out
American Admiralty Bureau's Introductory Guide to Ocean Cargo Claims by R.F. Bollinger
available from Marine Education Textbooks
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