Cargo Claims

Terminology used
   PCZ: Primary Customs Zone
   CFS: Container Freight Station, ie. a private bonded warehouse either within the terminal, the PCZ, or outside.
   CY: Container Yard, as above.
   CTA: Customs Transport Agent.
   FCL: Full Container Load.
   LCL: Less than Container Load.

Cargo claims are subject to the Brussels Convention of 1924 (Hague Rules) providing the bill of lading was issued in a country which has ratified or adhered to this convention, otherwise by Argentine Navigation Law 20.094 if the Hague Rules do not apply. This act has the provisions of Hague Rules and some of the Wisby Rules.

Containers, on discharge from the carrying vessel, are inspected by terminal staff for external condition and seals are checked. Thereafter FCL’s are cleared for delivery to consignees, either with Customs inspection within the PCZ if the characteristics of the goods so permit or to customs controlled areas at consignees plant or factory. If neither of the above are applicable, then the container is sent to a CFS/CY within the Terminal or PCZ or outside. LCL’s are all sent to CFS’s for shipping.

On unstuffing the container at the CFS, the condition of any cargo that is damaged is noted. Both on discharge of the container at the terminal and on shipping at the CFS, the Shipowner may employ his own personnel to verify the condition of the container and its goods on discharge, however, in the interests of economy, these tasks are normally left in the hands of the terminal and CFS operators whom the Shipowner has contracted to carry out discharge.

Since the reorganization of the port and the advent of the private terminals and private bonded warehouses, cargo claims and pilferage have decreased very considerably. Based on any abnormality noted in the out-turn reports issued by the terminal operator regarding the container and its seals and the CFS regarding damages to individual packages, consignees may, in accordance with local law, request from the CTA a joint survey to establish the conditions of the cargo. At the joint survey, should damage be proved, then consignees/cargo underwriters have the right to present a claim to settle the matter amicably or to iniciate a judicial action for the CIF or insured value of the damaged cargo, based on the fact that no observations to the contrary were made an the B/L ie. that a clean B/L was issued. It should be noted that, additionally, consignees also have the legal right to claim for the difference between the amount collected from their cargo underwriters and the real market value of the damaged goods. In practically all cases a negotiated (amigable) settlement between the parties is reached.

Claimants can exercise these rights within one year as from the date of discharge of the last package of the shipment involved, otherwise the claim becomes prescribed, unless the process is interrupted by consignees judicially or by sending a legally certified letter claiming payment for the damages in question. Most cargo claims are handled locally but claimants also have the right to present their claim at the port of origin. In cases of claims it is important to bear in mind that all general/standard clauses printed on the back of the B/L are not taken into consideration by local Courts, which only accept remarks inserted on the face of the B/L, specifically referring to the actual shipment covered by the bill.

Letters of guarantee given by shippers at loading ports in order that a clean B/L be issued offer no protection to Owners in Argentine courts. Art 300 of the local Law of Navigation specifically considers this matter and establishes the fundamental principle that Letters of Guarantee are only valid between carrier and shipper. In no case can they be used or invoked vis a vis the holder of the bill of lading, such letters being null and void when emitted in prejudice of third parties or when containing stipulations contrary to law.

Claims on break bulk cargoes are dealt with in the same manner as described above.