Onions and other delicate commodities

ITIC has, over the years, paid out large sums in respect of claims for damage to refrigerated cargo due to mistakes by ship agents in passing information on temperatures. However, in carrying cargo, it is not only the temperature which needs to be correct, but it is also vital that other carrying instructions are passed along the line, particularly where cargo will be stored in more than one port terminal and transshipped to more than one ship.

One example involves a cargo of onions in a 40ft dry container. The agent was instructed that the doors of the container should be tied back and left open. This instruction, although given as part of the booking, was not passed on to the operational staff involved. The result was the total loss of the onions, plus storage and destruction costs.

Another example was a booking of several containers of cocoa butter. The booking note provided that they should be stowed away from heat, ie. in the middle of the stow and away from the engines. The special instructions were complied with by the first carrying ship, but were not passed on by the agent to the transshipment port agent and the cargo sustained heat damage on the second ship and was a total loss.

In a third case, two containers of flower bulbs shipped from the Netherlands to South Africa were destroyed because the agent failed to pass on instructions for container vents to be left open.

In a fourth case, a ship agent put the instruction to carry a container of live worms at +4 degrees Centrigrade on the reefer manifest, but failed to pass on an instruction to keep the air vents open. When the worms arrived approximately two thirds had suffocated. As the worms were intended for fishing, dead worms were of no use. The value of the dead worms was USD68,000.

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