Draft Survey

A draft survey should be performed by an independent surveyor and should commence with the vessel in ballast condition. The difference in draft when fully laden calculated against the ship’s plans and allowing for bunkers and fresh water, etc. supplied and consumed in the meantime, will provide a fairly accurate measurement of cargo loaded. Nevertheless, a reasonable assessment of cargo on board can be achieved even when commencing draft calculations with a laden vessel and, should a master be faced with a substantial discrepancy between ship and shore figures, he should clause the bills of lading with “ship’s weight” figures if possible, supporting these remarks with an independent surveyor’s report or, failing this, certainly his owners should strongly protest over the discrepancy. The condition of most cargoes can be checked by tallymen or by ship’s officers as loading progresses, and relevant comments entered in either tally or mate’s receipts, and thereafter in bills of lading. But for certain commodities claims for damage can be so high that a fully fledged loading survey is necessary, in fact many P & I Clubs insist on this for unprotected steel cargoes for example. A shipowner’s local P & I Club representatives may assist in arranging for a reputable surveyor to inspect all items presented for loading, recording damages apparent in the goods prior to loading (i.e.: indentation or rust) and supporting same with colour photographs where deemed advisable. Irrespective of the actual condition of cargo, many letter of credit transactions call for “clean” bills of lading – i.e.: bills stating that goods described therein are in “apparent good order and condition”; with no additional or alternative wording indicating deficiencies in the goods. Unfortunately, difficult though it may be for shippers, a carrier cannot agree to issue clean bills of lading when cargo is not in good condition, even where letters of so-called indemnity are offered by the parties concerned. Bills of lading must accurately reflect the actual condition of the goods, and to do otherwise is to act fraudulently.