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Global trade is dependent on the movement of goods from A to B and in today’s trade, more than 800+ million containers criss-cross the globe carrying various cargoes. Containers move by road or rail before it gets to the port for the sea movement. During transit, there are several forces acting on the cargo due to the movement of the truck or train including:
These forces can have an impact on the container and the cargo inside the container, especially if the cargo has not been packed properly and it shifts inside the container during transportation.
The movement that happens to a container is worse when it is at sea as unlike road or rail movement, there are a few additional ways in which your cargo moves inside the container while at sea.
Any movement of cargo inside the container can cause cargo damage and as per claim statistics, cargo damage is the leading cause of cargo claims.
Apart from loss or damage of cargo in transit, risks due to loss or damage of cargo may also be attributable to
When such loss or damage happens, the normal recourse available to the BCO (Beneficial Cargo Owner – could be a direct exporter, direct importer, seller, or buyer) is to claim for the loss from the insurance companies who have insured the cargo.
Cargo insurance is a type of insurance that compensates the insured against loss or damage to cargo depending on the type of cover taken.
However, in many cases, insurance is considered a grudge purchase. Something no one wants to pay for unless they must and because they have a misguided view that they need not insure their cargo.
This approach is totally incorrect. As the name suggests, the BCO is the owner of the cargo, and therefore it is in their best interest to safeguard their cargo and cover themselves sufficiently for such exigencies.
No one can predict when and how cargo damage can happen and if you, as a BCO have not insured your cargo then you could end up losing your money and cargo in case of any damage or loss.
As a case in point, you can look at the many incidents that have happened recently in shipping where containers have fallen overboard while at sea, ships catching on fire, and ships running aground. No one anticipated these disasters.
This is besides the regular issues of cargo theft, pilferage, seal breakage, and road accidents.
Much BCOs work under the impression that once they hand over their cargo to a carrier or freight forwarder, they will cover/insure their cargo while it is under their possession.
While the carrier or freight forwarder has their own insurance covers, it does not cover the cargo or the value of the cargo.
Their insurance cover is to cover their “liability” while the cargo is under their possession.
Carriers are covered by their P&I club covers whereas Freight Forwarders will have Liability insurance covers.
The bill of lading terms and conditions clearly indicates the conventions that cover the contract of carriage and the bill of lading. Even if the carrier is legally liable, their liability is limited and the liability varies based on the convention used.
In most cases, this liability amount will be much lower than the value of the cargo. The limit of this liability is mentioned on Page 1 of the bill of lading which has all the terms and conditions associated with the carriage of the cargo.
BCOs must not assume that nothing will happen to their cargo or that the Carrier or Freight Forwarders are responsible to insure the cargo.
The logic is simple, the cargo is owned by the BCO and they must insure it.
Types of Insurance
It is also equally important for the BCO to ensure that they are sufficiently covered as there are several types of insurance covers in the market and not all might suit their requirements.
There are different types of cargo insurance available but the most common or comprehensive Institute cargo clauses – A, B, and C which cover different aspects of cargo in transit.
These clauses specify which items in the cargo mix are covered in case of any loss or damage to the shipment and the extent of the coverage is directly proportionate to the insurance premium.
C Clauses – Risks covered
B Clauses – Risks covered
A Clauses – Risks covered
This clause covers all risks of loss of or damage to the subject-matter insured except as provided in Clauses 4, 5, 6, and 7.
All the clauses cover General Average plus “Both To Blame” collisions in the case where containers are lost at sea due to the collision of two ships.
41 ships were lost worldwide in 2019 in maritime disasters/incidents with high levels of trade, busy shipping lanes, older ships, and bad weather said to be the major factors for these losses.
In the recent past several big ships have lost containers and/or caught on fire – Maersk Honam, Yantian Express, ONE Apus, Maersk Essen, Ever Liberal, and a few others.
In all these cases, there would have definitely been some shippers who did not consider insuring their cargo and are now facing consequential losses.
Do not be that BCO – insure your cargo for your own peace of mind.