Damage Due to Improper Temperature Settings: Who is Responsible?


If you are choosing to ship your goods using a refrigerated shipping container (reefer), it probably means that your cargo is sensitive to temperatures. So, what happens if your cargo arrives at its destination damaged due to the wrong settings? Who is responsible? Of course the answer is: that depends on a few things. Here is what you need to make sure that you have done your homework and placed the liability on the shipping line.

Pre-Trip Inspection

All reefer containers should have a Pre-Trip inspection done that ensures the container is working properly. This inspection includes checking the structural integrity of the container as well as the mechanical refrigerator parts to ensure they are working. While the PTI is useful in making sure the container works, this is not where the temperature will be set for the trip.

What Is On the Bill of Lading?

Your bill of lading should specify what the temperature of the container is set to. If you are doing the shipping yourself or working through a freight company, the initial documentation for the shipment should include the proper temperature. That temperature will then be made part of the bill of lading (BL) and documentation attached to your shipment. Making sure that the BL is correct is your responsibility. Check and double check that the temperature of the reefer container is the correct one before you let your cargo be loaded and taken to the shipyards.

So Who Sets the Temperature?

Prior to loading your cargo into the container, the releasing depot should be the ones who check the reefer container. This is where the correct temperature is going to be set. Typically the releasing depot is going to be the ones who set the temperature according to the bill of lading prior to the cargo being loaded into the container. Any certifiers who may be present while the cargo is being loaded should also check to make sure that the cargo container is set to the correct temperature.

Shipping Line Verification

Once the cargo has been released and the shipping line has picked it up, they should do a final check to make sure that the temperature has been set properly. A shipping line that receives the cargo without checking is ultimately responsible for any damage that might occur to the cargo while it is in their hands.

Follow the Paper Trail

There should be documentation at each of the touch points for the cargo that says who did an inspection to make sure the temperature was properly set. Look for gaps in the paperwork to see where the failure might have occurred. Generally speaking, if you have properly specified the correct temperature on your bill of lading, you should be able to hold another agency responsible for the damage.

For custom crating or packing of your cargo before it is loaded into the reefer container, contact Cratex Group. We can also handle your transloading needs!