Vessel

This will show the quantity and description of the cargo loaded. It will usually include a wording such as ‘weight measurement, quality and contents unknown – all particulars as declared by shipper’. This is because at the point of loading all the vessel’s command can tell is that it has shipped on board a number of cases, drums, cartons, etc, or in the case of bulk cargo a quantity of a commodity, but is not competent to judge the actual composition of those goods. In the case of container or palletized traffic it is customary to state “container (or pallet) said to contain…” This qualification has been in use for a long time and has commercial importance that has been tested in many legal disputes. However its continued use is being threatened for a very different reason. Since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York in September 2001, The US has aggressively promoted a string of security related issues at the IMO and on a national level. As a result US Customs officials no longer permit Bs/L for US ports to carry this clause and demand instead a full description of the goods. Commercial interests are trying to persuade the US to change their position but they are successful and the catch-all phrase allowed to retain its commercial purpose remains to be seen. Unless there is some such qualification, a ship will be bound to deliver the quantity or number stated in the B/L, or face a claim from the consignees. (See later paragraphs on Cargo Quantity). A Bill of Lading will also comment on the condition of the cargo, usually by saying “in apparent good order and condition”. (See paragraphs on “Clean Bills of Lading”). As well as reference to quantity and condition the B/L will also give any detail necessary in order to identify the cargo. In the case of packaged goods this will consist of distinguishing marks and numbers.