Water ingress through the rusty, dented roof of the container is one of the most popular reasons for cargo damage in transit.
As a general rule, shipping lines reject these claims confirming, that container gate out documents were clean. Insurance companies use Unseaworthiness and Unfitness Exclusion Clause stated in ICC (A) not to cover similar claims either unless the insured proves that he was not aware of container conditions at the time of loading.
Obviously, this situation causes a lot of frustration, feeling of injustice, and result in absorbed losses among shippers globally.
In this article, we discuss how exporters and importers can protect themselves when cargo is damaged in transit due to preexisting container conditions.
Legal arguments supporting shippers’ defence
The shipping line is under an obligation under Art III of the Hague Rules to provide seaworthy containers. This means the carrier is under a legal obligation properly and carefully load, keep, care for and carry the cargo under their care and custody, also to deliver it in the same good order and condition in which it was in upon loading.
When cargo is damaged due to the preexisting condition of the container it is evident that the carrier failed to provide a seaworthy container. In the cases, when the container was delivered to the consignee with a bent door hinge, rust, dents, old cracks in the door of the container, etc. these are preexisting damages or improper previous repairs which are apparent that the damage to the Cargo arose as a result of water ingress through the damaged container.
Shipping Line must exercise its due diligence to make the container equipment seaworthy by regularly servicing its container. However, it is a responsibility shared by both ship owners and shippers too. Before loading, the shipper should be responsible for checking:
Outside of container:
Inside of container:
This inspection takes 3 to 5 minutes.
However what to do when shipper duly inspected container, loaded cargo and at the port of discharge cargo was received water damaged?
I am sure you are aware that there are containers in the fleet of shipping lines that are 20-year-old. For some destinations majority of the containers are this age. It is in the shipper’s interest to protect himself by checking containers before loading cargo and taking clear evidence of preexisting container damage at the discharge, to make sure you get fairly paid for the damaged cargo.