When loading or discharging bulk cargoes at Argentinean ports, many Masters have experienced the demand of cargo interests to use the shore scale figures to determine the loaded/discharged quantity arguing that only shore figures are recognized locally.
Taking this into consideration, Dimitris Valavanis, Claims Executive, Lawyer, Piraeus, Gard Club, explains if this is true and if owners, charterers and operators are obliged to accept the shore scale figures blindly.
According to Mr. Valavanis, Argentina has ratified the Hague Rules and the country’s Maritime Law has included most of the principles of the Hague-Visby Rules.
Before 2013, importers and exporters could select the method to be used to establish the weight of dry bulk cargoes. In June 2013 the Argentine Customs Authorities issued General Resolution No. 3506 on Determination of weight by draft and tanks’ sounding for operations with solid goods in bulk according to which Customs will decide the method of determining the cargo weight between the shore scale and draft survey figures.
It is a misconception that only the shore scale figures are accepted in Argentina. Even if the shore scale figures are chosen by Customs Authorities, the vessel may perform a draft survey and any of the parties involved may also engage surveyors to take part in such draft surveys
states Mr. Valavanis, adding that operators are expected and obliged under the Hague-Visby Rules to conduct their own draft surveys when loading or discharging cargoes. The draft survey figures will be a point of reference when shippers present a bill of lading reflecting shore figures.
As Gard claims, in Argentina the most common problem is when local shippers present the shore figures to be added into the bills of lading and there is a discrepancy between such figures and the vessel’s draft survey figures. If the discrepancy is within normal or customary limits, it is usually acceptable to issue clean bills of lading with the shore figures without any remarks.
However, what is a normal or customary discrepancy depends on the circumstances and the means of measurement used to determine the ship’s figures.
It is to be expected, however, that if the discrepancy exceeds the 0.5% the risk of shortage claims at the discharge port is increased. Even then, shippers insist that no remarks can be inserted into the Mate’s receipts and bills of lading and will advise the Master to issue a letter of protest recording such discrepancy
Considering the above, Gard recommends the below steps when the discrepancy in the figures is more than 0.5% and shippers insist that the shore figures are inserted into the cargo documents without any remarks:
- Inform the Association immediately to appoint a surveyor to board the vessel and conduct an independent final draft survey to verify the accuracy of the vessel’s measurements. It is preferable to have all interested parties (shippers and charterers) attend but if such interested parties decline an invitation, the Master should record this in a letter of protest and proceed with the independent draft survey.
- Notify charterers/shippers immediately of the discrepancy and propose to either load additional cargo so that the difference is brought below 0.5% or invite them to accept a remark on the cargo documents which will refer to the vessel’s draft figures as well as the shore scale figures. Under the Argentinian navigation law (N° 20094) Section 204, the Master is entitled to include in the Mate’s Receipts any remark linked to the state and condition of the goods.
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