Forensics

Marine Cargo Claims

Most of our appointments on marine cargo claims focus on one or other of the following.

When

Left : Goods stored outdoor in a clearing surrounded by jungle.
Right : Microscope view of a plastic covering over crates, showing deterioration by UV light, allowing water penetration.

The most common question. The reason is the wide range of time intervals covered by marine policies. These can cover the voyage only, or might extend for long intervals on either side. With many shipments, the time at sea can be the shortest phase of the transport from manufacturer to purchaser.

Answering this question requires the scientific consultant and the marine surveyor to work together. The surveyor is on hand when the container is unstuffed and his observations and photographs represent crucial evidence. The surveyor also has the capability to track the voyage and collect information and observations along the way, perhaps from other adjusters.

How?

Damage tends to happen for one or other of the following broad reasons.

The sealed bags of corn meal on the right were found to be contaminated by vermin. Laboratory examination of the bags revealed a manufacturing defect (left) that caused the bags to split with normal handling.

Inherent properties of the item : The seeds of destruction can lie in the item itself. A modern equivalent of the self heating of grains is the self-ignition of telephone batteries in bulk.

Poor packaging : Goods can be packed with no cognisance of the environment during or at the end of the voyage. For example sending sophisticated equipment to a tropical country where the packing cases may have to endure considerable outdoor exposure.

Corrosion of goods in containers is often a result of wooden pallets with too high a moisture content. However for the cathode ray tubes on the left, the water came through a hole in the container roof, as shown on the right.

Handling : Goods can fall off fork lift tynes, trucks or whole containers can be dropped. A control cabinet might be deemed to be unsuitable for use after simply being pushed from the vertical to the horizontal.

When goods are stored like this outdoors, it is not possible to tell what is happening inside the crates without regularly opening them. Even if the original internal packing had outdoor exposure in mind, rubbing during the voyage may have created perforations, allowing moisture to enter.

Influence of the environment : The environment might be the naturally surrounding one when the container is packed or unpacked at either end of the voyage, or an environment created within the container. For example, wet pallets can contribute kilograms of free water that combined with day/night temperature cycling of a container outdoors, can create a very corrosive environment that can tax ordinary protective systems.

These high pressure pipes were contaminated by both coke and fertilizer on the voyage, resulting in significant corrosion. Light corrosion as appears on the left would often be inconsequential, but not on rollers in a bearing.

Contamination by other goods : The sea is not the only source of contamination. Fertiliser, acids and other bulk cargos or liquids all have the potential to corrode.

Corrosion damage during a voyage to a pick-n-place machine for the electronic industry. Such damage can range from superficial with no effect on end use, to very significant and likely to have adverse effects on performance and life.

Consequences : Even when it is unequivocally known when and how damage occurred, much argument can develop over the consequences. Is the damage as significant as is being made out? Can the damage be repaired? Will the accident alter in any way the long-term performance of the equipment? These are all questions that we are asked on a regular basis.


Other Links For

Forensic Services - Marine Cargo Claims Investigation Category

Container Fires | Marine Cargo Claims | Corrosion of Steel in Transit