Many a time, shippers have asked shipping lines for “CLEAN ON BOARD” clause on a bill of lading and if the request relates to a container shipment, this might have very well been rejected by the shipping line.. Why do the shipping lines reject this..??
The clause “CLEAN ON BOARD” was initially used on break bulk vessels.. In all break-bulk and bulk vessels, there is a document called Mate’s Receipt.. This document is like a delivery note and has all the information pertaining to the shipment like cargo description, number of bundles, weight, measurement etc and this note is handed over to the ship at the time of loading..
If any discrepancies are found between the actual cargo delivered and the Mate’s Receipt, the Chief Mate (after whom this receipt is named) a.k.a 1st Mate, 1st Officer, Chief Officer will check the cargo and note such discrepancies to confirm that the cargo was received in that condition..
If the cargo was found to be in good and “clean” condition, the bill of lading will be claused “CLEAN ON BOARD”.. If the cargo was damaged in anyway or rusted etc, the Mates Receipt would be claused to show the condition of the cargo upon receipt and the bill of lading will not be claused Clean On Board..
This was possible in the era of pre-containerisation because the ship/agents were able to physically check and verify the cargo..
However, in the case of containerised cargoes and specially FCL cargoes, the carrier/agents are not privy to the packing of the containers and the nature of the cargo as the packing is done by the client on their premises and the carrier/agents is not present at the time of packing.. The carrier relies on the information provided by the shipper in terms of the cargo, number of packages, weight and measurement..
Therefore, the carriers do not allow the clause “Clean on Board” on the bill of lading as they don’t know the condition of the cargo in the container and will not accept liability for the same..
The carrier puts the clauses “SHIPPERS LOAD STOW AND COUNT” (SLAC) and “SAID TO CONTAIN” (STC) on the bill of lading to protect the carrier from any claims that the shipper might levy on them at a later stage, based on the above facts.. Pls refer to my previous article on SLAC and STC and this article to learn further on this..