In most contracts of carriage, the ship owner’s responsibilities begin at the time of loading and it is therefore important to inspect the cargo at this stage.
Pre-shipment inspection of cargo is undertaken to determine and document the condition of the cargo at this time. This inspection is commonly referred to as the pre-loading survey.
This survey can be carried out by the ship’s Master and officers, owner’s representatives, or surveyors instructed by the owner depending on the trade and nature of the cargo. If the cargo is not as described in the shipping documentation, a decision will have to be made whether to reject the cargo or accept the cargo and adequately describe any differences on the receipts and bill of lading.
Early notification of any deficiencies to the shippers is desirable together with the owner’s intentions on the rejection of the cargo or causing the receipts and B/Ls. This notification can be given directly to the shippers but is more commonly given to the agents, stevedores or charterers, depending on the owner’s contractual relations.
Masters and deck officers employed by owners who trade their ships in liner services are usually trained to take care of pre-shipment inspections. Ships employed in the main bulk trades, (oil, grain, ore, etc) or specialized ships such as gas carriers and RORO vessels usually have sufficient and adequately trained Masters and officers on board to take care of any pre-shipment inspections that are necessary.
However, problems may arise if a tramp operator is chartered to carry, for example, steel products, paper products, or break-bulk cargoes, etc but the Master and the ship’s officers have little or no experience of these products. In many such instances, loading operations commence immediately upon the ship’s arrival and there is little time for the ship’s personnel to inspect the cargo.
Out-turn Surveys – surveys of break-bulk cargo, especially steel, on arrival at the discharge port, to establish condition and any damages or shift of cargo that may have occurred during the voyage. This survey often requires Silver Nitrate testing for chloride residues.