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The Coffee plant is commonly grown and harvested in parts of South America, Africa and Asia and then transported to the rest of the world as a major cash crop. It is also where the delicious beverage that so many enjoy, is grown.

When the fruit is ripe, the seed is separated from the fruit, washed for a couple days, and then dried. In the latter part of the harvesting process, the ready-to-go coffee beans are packaged, mostly in jute bags, and transported as freight aboard a vessel to take it to its destination. It really is an amazing process to see where our food is sourced globally, and how it eventually ends up in our homes, and in this case, in our mugs.

(Fun fact: America is the biggest consumer of coffee in the world!)

During the voyage, occasionally, the jute bags can rip, tear, get moldy due to external factors, or can even have bug/vermin infestations.


As damage surveyors and consultants, our team is called to assess the extent of damage these shipments, and perform a risk analysis, along with loss mitigation strategies. Case in point, recently, a shipment of damaged jute bags arrived in Montivilliers, France, and we were asked to attend the survey.

We noted that some of the bags appeared to have mold on them. As part of our survey, we counted, tallied and sampled the damage to see how many bags in total appeared to have mold, and further how many coffee beans within were affected. The coffee beans were checked for the presence of moisture, odor and color. The damaged coffee beans were set aside.  Amongst other findings, we also determined the percentage of damaged vs. undamaged beans, and conducted a loss assessment analysis, determining the cause and extent of damage.

Due to the vulnerability of the jute bag itself, coffee beans can arrive in a damaged condition. A damage and loss assessment survey can help mitigate further loss and prevent damaged articles from ending up on a grocery store shelf.

A marine boat survey can be helpful for several reasons:

• Determining the actual value of your vessel
• Maintaining the vessel’s mechanical and structural integrity
• Determining any repairs needed
• Insurance purposes

Boat Survey

Different types of Surveys

A boat survey can fall into different categories, including:

• Damage survey – Assess the extent of damage to a vessel
• Pre purchase survey (Condition & Value Survey) – Usually a comprehensive assessment of the functional, electrical, safety and mechanical systems on board a vessel. This type of survey is usually conducted for pre-purchase / used boats.
• Insurance survey – Usually conducted to assist underwriters in determining the value of insuring or renewing policy
• Appraisal – Determines market value of a vessel, usually for financing or settlement purposes

Getting Your Boat Ready for The Survey

Boat Survey

For the surveyor to access and check the undercarriage, dry docking and power washing of the boat would be recommended. Further, clearing any/all compartments is advisable, as is tidying up the deck for the surveyor to walk on. The machinery and bilge pump should also be cleaned so the surveyor can conduct a detailed examination of the mechanical parts. Lastly, don’t forget to bring all keys with you!

If you leave the boat in a messy state, for obvious reasons, it takes that much longer for the surveyor to get through everything – not to mention the safety aspect involved.

Boat Survey

Boat Survey

The Survey

Now your surveyor is at the dock. When he/she arrives, they will walk around to assess the overall condition of the boat. The inspector will closely scrutinize the following and ensure that they are in compliance with current boating standards.

• Hull / structure
• Machinery
• Electronic equipment / steering equipment
• Safety equipment
• Navigational equipment
• Overall condition of vessel

The length of a survey will generally vary based on the size of the boat. A general time frame can be from half a day to an entire day.

A pre-purchase survey usually concludes with a sea-trial, where the boat is taken on the water to replicate its daily activities and to assess how she performs during these every day conditions. The surveyor will take the opportunity to check the overall handling of the boat, check the hatches, advance the throttle and see how the boat holds up, while being mindful of how the engine responds. The entire process usually takes about an hour.

A marine survey is a great opportunity to ask the surveyor any questions you might have about the vessel in general. He/she will also be more than happy to point out things during the course of the survey. In fact, your surveyor prefers if you are on board asking all the relevant information a boat owner might have, especially if you are not familiar with any of the equipment on board.

Boat Survey

The Report

After the conclusion of the survey, a comprehensive report is issued by the surveyor. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

• A report is valid for a certain period of time, before a new one will be required
• A report will provide a list of findings and recommendations for you to consider. Certain recommendations will require immediate attention, while others can be pursued at your leisure, as they do not affect the overall functional integrity of the vessel. Your surveyor will guide you through the ones that require prompt attention and should be addressed before the boat is next handled
• The surveyor is on your side, and will answer any and all questions you might have
• For the purposes of insurance, a report will be furnished for your viewing and a copy will be provided to the insurance company

My Cargo is Damaged… Now What?

The volume of cargo transported all over the world, on a daily basis, to so many countries is really astounding. So many of the everyday items we use are supplied to us as a result of the trade agreements established between countries and via cargo ships or planes as the medium of transport.  Most of these products also arrive at their intended destination in good condition. However, on occasion, cargo does get damaged on its way to the consignee. So, what should you do if this happens to you?

What Happens Next…

Cargo can arrive at the consignee’s home or facility in a package, a container, or as part of an LCL shipment. When it is delivered, the carrier or an agent of the carrier, normally asks the consignee to sign a delivery document to record the delivery of the shipment. Before doing so, keep in mind that this is an ideal time to conduct a visual examination of the cargo.

• For non-containerized shipments, does the packaging appear intact?
• Are there any tears, rips, crushing or any other signs of damage to the external wrapping of the cargo?
• For a containerized shipment, does the container appear to be in good condition, without any obvious signs of damage or holes?
• Is the container seal in place and opened in the presence of the consignee?

If the package or the container appears to be damaged, it is important to notate as such in the delivery document (Proof of Delivery) provided by the carrier. This essentially allows the consignee to dispute the condition of the delivery and serves as a basis for a claim with the insurance company or carrier. A brief description of the extent of damage should be noted on the Proof of Delivery (POD) document, along with a notation that the cargo was received in damaged condition. Be as specific as possible.

In this instance, the consignee can ask to open the container to assess the cargo within in the presence of the carrier’s representative. If permitted, the container and shipment can be assessed for obvious leaks, holes, and shifting. This, too, should be notated in the Proof of Delivery document. The same is applicable to any non-containerized shipment as well. If the consignee is permitted to open them, they can document any damage to the shipment.

Don’t forget to take photographs or videos documenting any damage to the cargo, and the packaging in which it was shipped. This is especially true, if the damage is only evident after opening, and the consignee was not permitted to open the container or package in the presence of the carrier.

Note the condition of the packaging. Does it seem adequate, or, is it sparse / missing in areas? Save all packaging, and be sure to take pictures.

All delivery documents should be signed by both the carrier and the consignee, and the consignee should be provided with a copy for their own records.

You will also need to determine whether the cargo can be repaired, or sold at a discounted price, or whether the entire shipment is a total loss.

When making a freight claim, you will be asked:

• The nature and circumstances of the claim
• Contact information for everyone involved
• Estimated cost of damage incurred
• Whether the cargo is salvageable

Important documents needed for your claim:

• Bill of Lading
• Proof of Delivery
• Packing List
• Documents such as temp-tale charts
• Commercial invoice

Filing a loss or damaged claim with an insurance company or carrier is a lengthy process. After the initial filing, be prepared to wait for several weeks for them to collect and assess the documents. Follow up regularly to check on the progress of your case file.

The insurance company or carrier will send an independent 3rd party surveying company / damage claim specialist to visually assess the nature of your claim. Their report and findings serve as a basis for allowing or denying the claim.  On site, they will conduct a thorough visual examination of the cargo, and then proceed to test their functionality. They will test the electrical or mechanical functioning of the unit as well. A detailed report will be issued based on their findings.

In Conclusion…

Filing a freight claim is a lengthy process, requiring your patience and understanding. Before filing a claim:

• Assess damage to your cargo at the time of delivery
• Sign the POD, and notate any damages seen. Be specific
• Take pictures of the exterior packaging, and the cargo within (if you are permitted to open)
• Collect all necessary documents
• Assess whether the cargo is salvageable or is a total loss
• Check regularly with the carrier or insurance company for any status updates.
• Allow the 3rd party independent surveying company / damage claim specialists access to the cargo

Pre-shipment inspections, commonly referred to as PSI, are strongly encouraged due to their ability to control supply-side management, and ensure the procurement of cargo as per its desired state. Most cargo, ranging from industrial goods,to household cargo, is shipped to North America, but manufactured or sourced from all over the world. The world is a small place, and getting even smaller. Maintaining strict quality control over this process allows companies and consumers a reliable delivery of products, with tight control and standards being upheld.


The purpose of a PSI is to ensure that goods are delivered in the same manner as originally consigned, with customer specifications and certain standards being met. The pre-shipment inspection process entails a physical inspection of the goods at the manufacturing site. An independent, 3rd party quality control professional arrives to carefully evaluate the entire shipment, check for discrepancies, and visual inconsistencies. Inferior and / or damaged goods are quickly made known to the client, and the product is quickly removed or reworked for shipping purposes.


On site, the quantity of the cargo present is verified against the documentation (Pro forma invoice / Packing List) supplied by the shipper. The role of the quality control inspector is to minimize unnecessary loss and delays by overseeing the specifications of the packing list. For example, if the packing list states that 3 types of products are being shipped in 3 different cartons, then he/she accounts for all 3.


The inspector checks the cargo, and its packaging to ensure that health and safety regulations are being met.The inspector is also able to assess whether any illegal or dangerous components might be included in the cargo.


These tests are a key component of pre-shipment inspections, designed to detect product functionality.

Functional tests can include checking the durability of a product, and also includes testing zippers, checking buttons and other fastens on clothing, for example. The mechanical test identifies damage to any motorized components of the cargo. As such, the inspector assesses the motorized function of a unit, checking that the product appears safe for use, and does not have any sharp / dangerous corners / areas/ edges.

Recently, we had an experience where a product (fan) was delivered to a customer. The fan was not working and appeared defective. The on/off and speed dials were not in English, nor was the instruction manual. To avoid an inconvenience such as this, is exactly the reason why pre-shipment inspections are encouraged. The inspector would have been able to detect all these defects, and the product would have been reworked so as to be customer friendly to where it was being exported: North America.


On site, the inspector is able to check the labeling and packaging of the cargo, both often overlooked, but very valuable in preventing a product from being mishandled. For example, if a cargo contains fragile components, then the correct label allows handlers to know that it is to be handled gently. Similarly, cargo also needs to be packaged in a way that minimizes loss and damage.

Further, the origin country, destination, product type and name should be clearly seen on labels for all handlers between the manufacturer and consignee. If there are any oversights, the quality control inspector is able to assess them and ensure that the supply chain process continues to operate efficiently and effectively.

Overall, pre shipment inspections fill a crucial role in global trade by minimizing delays and loss, and ensuring transparency. They are required by certain countries on a regular basis, and are requested by other private customers or companies to verify product authenticity and as part of their overall quality control procedures.

Buyers and sellers have a lot to consider when shipping cargo, however, packaging material should also be given great consideration, in order to mitigate loss and damage. Product packaging serves an essential role in the supply chain, and is a key link for distribution, and damage and replacement costs.

What role does packaging play when shipping cargo?

• Optimal packaging can cushion cargo during handling

Cargo gets handled at so many points when transferred from the shipper to the consignee, that even if there is accidental rough handling at one-point, consequential impact to the cargo can be prevented. Impact resistant packaging is also especially crucial when handling delicate / fragile cargo.

Waterproof, polypropylene bags placed inside larger corrugated boxes, or bubble wrapped envelopes for smaller items can help preserve the integrity of the product.

How packaging affects your cargo

• Optimal packaging prevents the cargo from moving / shifting, and potentially impacting other cargo

 Cargo can often be individually wrapped and packed on pallets, thereby, any loss, is isolated and limited to a unit, as opposed to the entire cargo.

How packaging affects your cargo

Plastic wrapping atop individual cartons, secured by plastic ties, is often used. However, it is essential to ensure that the plastic wrap extends all the way to the bottom of the pallet. Often times, the cargo placed on the upper tiers remains intact, however, there can be damage to the bottom exposed corners of the cartons.

How packaging affects your cargo

• Proper packaging ensures that the cargo load gets evenly distributed on pallets

When loading cargo aboard a shipping container, handlers are mindful to load the heavier items at the bottom, and lighter items atop, so as to evenly distribute the freight load. The weight of the cargo must be evenly distributed, and air pockets minimized with cushioning. Optimal packaging weighs as a factor in cargo distribution by “holding up” when it is time to perform.  It allows for the ideal placement of cargo whether it be in a container, a shipping hold, flatbed truck, or a pallet.


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