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Contract of carriage at sea & bulk carriers required documents

Goods are carried by sea under a contract of carriage between the shipper and the shipowner. The shipper may employ a forwarding agent to arrange the transport, while the Shipowner may employ a loading broker to control the allocation of space and advertise the service, and to make the loading arrangements and prepare documents on the shipowner's behalf .

When a shipper wants to send a particular cargo with a particular ship on a scheduled service, a "shipping note" for the consignment is completed by the shipper and forwarded to the shipowner or his agent. This note will have to contain a brief description of the commodity. The loading broker then compiles a list of the consignments intended for shipment, the booking list. This is sent to the ship to enable the Master to plan the stow and to the stevedore to arrange the loading. The shipper may receive a "booking note", which specifies that the carrier reserves space for a specified volume and kind of cargo in a named vessel between named ports. The broker may also issue a "calling forward notice" to the shipper, advising him of the time and place at which he is to deliver the goods.

When the cargo is delivered to the warehouse or to the ship, a receipt for that cargo must be obtained by the shipper. When the cargo is placed onboard, this is called a "mate's receipt". This receipt acknowledges that the goods ha ve been loaded and have been properly and carefully handled, loaded and stowed. If there are any damages to the goods before loading, this will be recorded on the receipt, and it is no longer "clean".

In some trades, it is customary for the shippers to have a "boat note" following the cargo. When the "boat note" is signed by the cargo officer aboard the ship, it becomes a "mate's receipt". With many shipping companies it is the practice to give an official "mate's receipt" irrespective of the fact that a boat note may be provided by the shipper. Modern practice is to present a copy of the shipping note as the boat note, which when endorsed, become the "mate's receipt".

Special tally companies are engaged by the shipowner to check or keep record of all cargo loaded into and discharged from a vessel. This is an essential part of cargo work in order to prevent claims upon the ship for so-called "short" discharge, i.e. when some of the cargo is missing. It is sometimes customary for the shipper or consignee to provide his own tally clerks, particularly with cargoes of a straight nature, such as bags, bales etc.

A copy of the "mate's receipt" will be returned to the shipowner, so that a "bill of lading" can be issued to the shipper. The "bill of lading" acknowledges that the goods have been "shipped in apparent good order and condition" if the "mate's receipt" is clean. Otherwise, comments are transferred to the "bill of lading". This document is issued under all forms of shipping, scheduled or not. The complete list of cargo loaded, as compiled from the "bills of lading" form the "manifest" of the ship. Customs regulations at most ports require at least one copy of the manifest and copies are also required for stevedores at discharging ports.

While cargoes are in transit, they may be sold so that the goods change ownership. Such a sale will be represented by the "bill of lading" changing hands. At the port of discharge, the consignment will be handed over to the party presenting the original "bill of lading".

Shipper’s Declaration

A Shipper’s Declaration is required under the IMO Code of Safe Practice for Solid Bulk Cargoes (BC Code) to be made by the shipper of a hazardous solid bulk cargo, e.g. coal, for the guidance of the master. It outlines the cargo’s characteristics, including (for coal):

• transportable moisture limit (TML);
• estimated stowage factor (SF);
• angle of repose;
• contractual sizing;
• contractual sulphur content;
• IMO category for ocean transportation purposes.

The Shipper’s Declaration also lists any special precautions required and states where emergency procedures may be found, e.g. in the Coal section of the BC Code, and reproduces relevant extracts.

A Master’s Response Sheet may be issued by a shipper to the master after loading a hazardous bulk cargo in an effort to obtain information on the behaviour of the cargo during the voyage, where this behaviour does not correspond to that stated on the Shipper’s Declaration.

Masters are to ensure they/their officers always take steps/measures to satisfy themselves that the condition of the cargo presented for loading accords with the description of the cargo in the documents given to the ship - mate’s receipts / bills of lading / cargo manifest etc. If the B/L contains inaccurate or misleading statements about the quality or quantity of the cargo it covers, then Owners will be liable for the consequences, at least in the first instance. The Master’s main concern must be, to see that this cannot happen.

Therefore it is essential that the Master clauses directly on the bills the correct condition of the quality and quantity of cargo if these two items have not be properly described in the document presented to him for signing. If he wants assistance with the wording to be used in the clausing, he should call the commercial office who may engage the local P & I representative for advice. If this is not acceptable to Charterers / Shippers then they will need to find other cargo to load which does accord with the description which they want to appear in the Bills of lading.

Masters are also to ensure that the current charter party for the voyage is onboard and understood by all Officers, this includes notifications to be made when a potential dispute arises. The timing of such notifications is critical in such cases, if time constraints due to onboard operations, a telephone call to the Commercial Operator will suffice until a formal email with relevant backup detail can be sent.

It may not always be easy for the Master to separate the differing responsibilities with regards to the commercial operations of the vessel. If in doubt, always refer to your management office /commercial operator for clarification and support.

Related information

  1. Bulk carrier voyage agreement - Function of bill of lading

  2. Signing a bill of lading & relevant guideline

Related Information

  1. What is international grain code and why it is used in bulk carriers ?

  2. Risk of Heavy cargoes & Monitoring the Ship's Loading limits

  3. Inadequate cargo weight measurement during loading - How to avoid shortfall

  4. How to avoid risk of vessel being overloaded

  5. Local loading criteria defining maximum allowable cargo weight in each cargo hold

  6. High loading rates by shore terminal and potential problems for bulk carriers

  7. Risk of partially filled ballast tanks

  8. Bulk carrier design limitations - Over stressing on ships structure & countermeasures

  9. Causes of structural damage and countermeasures

  10. Deterioration of ships hull and consequences of hull damage /forward flooding

  11. Bulk carrier hull damage - causes and preventive measures

  12. How to avoid damage during cargo operation

  13. How to arrange repair of damage during cargo loading/unloading

  14. Bulk carrier water ingress problem

  15. Preparation for ships carrying bulk cargo & standard loading condition

Our detail pages illustrated many safety aspects of Bulk carrier

Home page |||Bulk carrier types ||| Handling of bulk coal |||Cargo planning ||| Carriage of grain |||Risk of iron ores |||Self unloading bulk carriers |||Care of cargo & vessel |||Cargoes that may liquefy |||Suitability of ships |||Terminal guideline |||Hold cleaning |||Cargo cranes |||Ballast handling procedure |||Bulk carrier safety |||Fire fighting systems |||Bulk carrier General arrangement

Operation of sea going bulk carriers involved numerous hazards . Careful planning and exercising due caution for all critical shipboard matters are important . This site is a quick reference to international shipping community with guidance and information on the loading and discharging of modern bulk carriers so as to remain within the limitations as specified by the classification society.
It is vital to reduce the likelihood of over-stressing the ship's structure and also complying with all essential safety measures for a safe passage at sea. Our detail pages contain various bulk carrier related topics that might be useful for people working on board and those who working ashore in the terminal. For any remarks please
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