A new report from the Swedish Club, called “Container Claims – Refrigerated Containers,” has identified a peak in refrigerated (reefer) container claims during the pandemic years as a result of disruptions in the supply chain, with a high number of reefer containers being delayed either in port or during transportation to and from port via road or rail.
etween 2021 and 2022 the Club saw an increase in reefer container claims of 270%, with 4.1% of all container vessels having a reefer claim in 2020 compared with 11.4% in 2021.
Reefer containers are the main cause of all container claims with 30% of the Club’s total container claims being due to refrigerated cargo damage over the last five years.
This emphasises the importance of monitoring cargoes properly and keeping correct records. If goods have already been damaged down the supply chain, then the onus is on the crew to demonstrate they have taken proper care of the container, from the moment it is on board until it leaves the vessel
Joakim Enström, Senior Loss Prevention Officer at The Swedish Club and author of the report said.
The report also highlights the important role of the crew in ensuring that these fragile cargoes are delivered safely, and how the actions of those on board can make a significant difference to the claims experienced by an operator.
Over the last five years temperature variation (18%), poor monitoring of the reefer unit (7%) and reefer mechanical failure (5%) have in total contributed to 30% of total container claims. This compares with wet damage at 27% and physical damage at 19%.
Taking into consideration the findings, the Swedish Club created a set of key lessons learned in order to enhance safety onboard reefers:
- It goes without saying that a continuous supply of power to reefer containers is of the utmost importance during the voyage. The vessel’s crew should regularly monitor this and ensure that all incidents regarding the vessel’s diesel generators and reefer circuit breakers, and their associated alarm systems, are meticulously recorded.
- The crew should check that the container set temperature complies with the shipper’s specified carriage instructions.
- The external integrity of the reefer container should also be checked for damage with any defects noted and photographed.
- It is important to note that the reefer container is designed to maintain the cargo’s temperature rather than cool it. Ideally, all cargoes should be loaded at the intended carriage temperature to ensure product quality is maintained.
- The crew should keep clear and accurate records. Document each stage of the voyage from loading through to discharge as well as obtaining date-stamped photographs of incidents which occur during the voyage.
- The owner should be aware that charterparties are often based on BOXTIME and, if not amended, any temperature damage to the cargo in reefer containers which is caused by crew negligence is 100% the responsibility of the owner.
- The vessel must comply with the shippers’ carriage instructions. If these are unclear, crew should seek clarification.
- When carrying frozen cargo, the fresh air ventilation ducts should always be closed.