The UK P&I Club has recently received reports from Members concerning claims for cargo contamination damage caused by odours. This type of contamination is usually caused by previous cargoes or from cargoes that have recently been fumigated.
The Club would like to remind Member's that shipping food products, clothing, household goods, toys, coffee, cotton, animal feed or various other commodities that can absorb odours in a container, which was previously used to ship dangerous goods (DG Cargo) or hides, is very risky and could result in the cargo being rejected and claims being filed for the full value of the cargo.
Shipping lines procedures for releasing empty containers often do not include a review of the previous commodity but it makes good commercial sense to add this review to the empty release process in order to avoid cargo becoming tainted.
We suggest that owners / operators keep containers that have been steam cleaned and not used to ship dangerous goods (DG Cargo) or hides on standby for bookings of food products, clothing, household goods, toys cotton and animal feed.
It is also a good idea to use boxes that were used for DG Cargo or fumigated for bookings of commodities that do not come in contact with humans such as chemicals, lumber, steel, aluminium coils, wastepaper, machinery and resin.
Shipping companies often use refrigerated containers to ship DG cargo and even though these boxes undergo a thorough steam cleaning, it is risky to use these containers for fruits, vegetables, chilled meats and fish or seafood.
What actions should owners /operators take when notified that a cargo has become tainted?
A competent marine surveyor should be appointed to inspect the cargo and container and if it is found that an odour has permeated the cargo, the cargo should be unpacked in a well ventilated warehouse and allowed to "air out" for a few days and this will usually solve the problem.
If the cargo is still tainted after being aired out for a few days, the surveyors should take samples to a lab for further analysis.
If laboratory results conclude that the cargo is safe, the Club suggests this report is given to the consignee as proof that the cargo was tested and now considered safe for normal distribution.
Source: UK P&I Club