According to Skuld, bananas, though said to be the world’s most transported- and consumed fruit, are also among the most sensitive cargoes that can be carried on a ship.
n particular, before a banana ends up on the shelves it has been exposed to numerous external factors which all have a bearing on how the banana is finally presented.
It is an essential part of the banana export trade that the bananas are harvested in a “green” condition. This way, the ripening progression can be controlled during transport up and until presentation to the consumer markets. The ripening process of the bananas is irreversible if the bananas are allowed to enter the “climacteric” phase before transport.
As Skuld informed, the cargo must be loaded in a careful manner and stowed in a way which allows for proper air circulation. If air circulation is blocked, the cargo will be unevenly cooled. This may cause some of the cargo, typically the cargo stowed farthest away from the air delivery point, to ripen prematurely. A difference between the Delivery Air Temperature (DAT) and the Return Air Temperature (RAT) indicates that the cargo stow is blocking air circulation.
Whenever a cargo of bananas arrive with signs of damage, local correspondents and surveyors will routinely be appointed to record the events and assess the damages. Should the damage turn out to be serious, it is highly recommended to instruct expert surveyors to attend as soon as possible even where this involves cross-border travels.
It is essential that the expert surveyor arrives on site when the evidence is fresh, as expert reports prepared on basis of pictures and third-party reporting will carry less weight and value in the defence against cargo claims. Preferably, the expert surveyor should get in place when the vessel is still at discharge port so that the crew can be properly interviewed, and all relevant documentation can be collected. The expert surveyor should also assist in taking representative samples of the cargo and ensure that the testing methods are appropriate, which again will assist in determining the exact cause of the damage.
The essential question to be asked from a reefer owner and P&I claims handler perspective is:
Did the alleged damage for which the claimant seeks compensation occur during or in connection with a stage which the ocean carrier was responsible for or have reasonable possibility of controlling?
If the answer to this question is negative, it is submitted that the claim should not be advanced against the carrier but rather be a matter between the seller and buyer under the sales contract.