West Africa: Bagged cargo claims - recommendations to mitigate loss through a joint tally procedure

Port news

Published: 15 October 2015

The Association would like to remind members about the difficulties faced in certain West African ports in respect of bagged cargo claims for, amongst others, shortages, torn and caked/mouldy bags. In most cases, claimants present their survey reports which include tallies of daily discharged bags and affected cargo to substantiate their claim. However, the Association has experienced instances where the tallies of members own surveyor and that of cargo receivers and underwriters (sometimes there are three (3) surveyors attending) do not correlate with one another. The Association has been advised that on some occasions, the cargo interest tally sheets are amended or completed once cargo is inspected in the receiver's warehouse.

As such, the Association recommends the practice of a joint tally procedure which aims to mitigate loss as it ties in all parties to daily figures of discharged and/or damaged bagged cargoes.

General information on tally in West African ports

The basic principle of a tally is that all parties involved in the discharge and delivery of the cargo will count the number of bags/quantities of cargo being discharged from a ship's holds. This includes detailing the number of bags torn and/or damaged before and/or during handling. A surveyor will therefore be appointed by each party: cargo interests, stevedores, owners and/or charterers.

Whilst surveyors often agree to carry out the cargo tally inside the ship's holds, cargo interests' and stevedores' surveyors also tend to extend their attendance beyond ship's tackle and/or berth. Occasionally, cargo receivers' surveyors will even have tallymen inside the receivers' warehouse.

At this stage, it needs to be reminded that cargo claims which are ultimately presented to the owner and his P&I club are most of the time based upon figures from tallies made by the receivers' representatives. It is therefore of utmost importance to clarify the location of the receivers' tally figures presented.

It is therefore recommended best practice to, once a day, during discharge for all attending surveyors to gather and compare figures and present them to the ship's command for countersigning. The common trend to most tallies is that all surveyors - regardless of the party they represent - will have similar enough figures throughout the discharge up to end of the day's discharge.

This procedure seeks to prevent changes in the tally figures presented by cargo/stevedores surveyors at a later stage. As a result, at the end of discharge operations, final tally reports from some parties will be showing shortages which did not appear on the counter signed final tally figures signed by ship's command onboard, thus leading to a potential for inflated claims.

The contradictions in tally figures may end up in a confrontation between owners' surveyor and cargo interests' / stevedores' surveyors about unilaterally amended figures of joint tally in order to reduce or increase the shortages, but ultimately, it is the receiver's figure which will be used to demand a letter of undertaking (LOU) from owners P&I club in their favour.

This situation has led our correspondents to recommend the following tally procedure when discharging bagged cargo in West African ports. Please note, however, that some ports may have different procedures but the concept of having a daily tally figure countersigned by all parties remains the suggested manner to mitigate inflated claims.

The recommended tally procedure

  • Daily tally sheets should be countersigned by all other tallymen/surveyors directly onboard, this prevents the possibility of amending unilaterally the tally figures.
  • Each tally sheet should bear the signatures from representatives of all attending surveyors who hand writes the quantity discharged per hold and per shift. Tally reports which are presented to ship's command for signing each day must reflect the quantity jointly recorded the previous day (for day and night shifts).
  • If one surveyor presents a daily tally report showing a different figure, this allows the other parties to timely raise an objection that this figure is in contradiction with cross-signed tally sheets.
  • The attending surveyor for owners/charterers comments on the joint tally figures in his/her final report, demonstrating mathematically if/how these were unilaterally changed by other parties (stevedores/ cargo interests' surveyors) and indicating at which date this happened (based on the countersigned tally sheets).
  • It is noted that certain cargo interests' and stevedores' surveyors have recently developed a strategy which consists of refusing to countersign tally sheets during the last shifts. Depending of the circumstances, a bailiff could be placed on stand-by ready to attend the vessel and on owners and club's instructions, to put on record resistance from any surveyor to comply with the joint tally procedure and refusal to countersign. Members should consult the Association who will seek advice from local correspondents should cargo and stevedore representatives refuse to sign the daily tally sheets.
  • Each surveyor may sign the other surveyors' tally sheets with reservations. The most important thing is that each surveyor must mention the quantity discharged/damaged/caked per shift and per hold on tally sheets of the other surveyors.

Once a claim is presented by the receiver with an attached final survey/outturn report with final figures, these can be compared by the member's surveyor to check that same correlates with the daily countersigned tally sheets.

This procedure has been developed by Ivory P&I representatives and the Association is grateful for the contribution to this circular.

The above recommendations are designed to mitigate the practice from local stevedores' and cargo interests' surveyors to amend unilaterally the on-board tally figures in order to create/inflate shortages which may transpire past the ship's tackle.