Shipping lawyers Wang Jing & Co.Charles and Qiu Yuhao, Senior Claims Executive at Skuld Club shared some useful tips for soybeans bound for China.
o remind, soybeans in their original form are not listed under the IMSBC Code. Shipment in bulk is subject to the IMO International Convention for the Safe Carriage of Grain in Bulk (the “Grain Code”). Compared to other grain cargoes, soybeans are a perishable commodity and not meant to be stored for an extended duration.
As explained, the main cause for damage to a soybean cargo is its inherent sensitivity to high moisture contents, and high temperature at load port makes the cargo even more likely to suffer damage.
Warm soybeans can release moisture, leading to a warm and humid atmosphere within the cargo bulk which consequently can allow mould to grow resulting in self-heating and cargo damage during a lengthy sea voyage.
Keep detailed ventilation logs
The ventilation logs shall be properly prepared and recorded. In a recent PRC Supreme Court Judgment, the judges agreed that dew points/temperatures/humidity inside and outside the cargo holds shall be recorded daily from the loading date to discharge date.
In addition, if ventilation has been carried out, the date, time and methods shall be recorded in detail. If ventilation was not carried out, the reasons (such as fumigation restriction, bad weather, rough sea etc.) shall be recorded.
As the Chinese lawyers suggest, it is indeed legally important that shipowners conduct ventilation when necessary and when safe to do so – and keep records, otherwise they can be found liable under Chinese law.
Make sure the ventilation records are consistent
On recording the ventilation methods and duration, the Master and duty officers should be reminded that such contents, if recorded in the logbook, must be consistent with what is inserted in the ventilation logs.
In our experience, even where detailed and strong ventilation logs were submitted then, if there was any inconsistency between the logbook and the ventilation logs, for example regarding measures or period of ventilation, the Court would disregard the evidence because of the inconsistency and find against shipowners for having failed to exercise due diligence to care for the cargo.
…the club notes.
Document hard copies of the ventilation logs or email them daily
In many cases, ventilation logs are recorded on an editable Microsoft Excel template, which is then saved as a digital document. It is updated by the Chief Officer or other duty officer daily.
In some of our cases, the cargo receivers would challenge the electronic ventilation log on the grounds that an Excel template can be easily altered and therefore the electronic data are alleged to be unreliable. To avoid the data being challenged in such a way we recommend that, in addition to properly filing it in onboard, a copy of the daily ventilation logs can be converted to PDF-format and emailed from the vessel to owners and charterers at the end of each day during the voyage. Such will allow a Chinese Notary Public to later notarise the emails in China to enhance the credibility in the evidence
Get a surveyor there
If possible, Owners (or their appointed surveyors) should monitor loading operations and take photographs of the cargo in each hold regularly. Cargo temperatures are needed anyway for the ventilation regime, and these can be very helpful to assess the cargo condition on loading and its longevity for the voyage.
When hatches are open before arriving the discharge port, they may also take photographs of the apparent condition of the cargo.
These photographs can form a traceable record of the condition of the cargo during carriage. It is particularly useful evidence when there is a delay in discharge as the pictures can reflect the gradual change in the cargo condition.