There are cases where a container maybe discharged with a seal number that is different from what has been manifested and shown in the bill of lading..
Seal number discrepancy between manifest and container happens more times than you can imagine and this happens all over the world..
How and why does this seal number discrepancy happen and what steps should a consignee take when it happens..??
A seal number discrepancy can happen due to several reasons :
- Typo error when capturing manifest
- Improper capture due to confusion caused by similar seal number patterns (Seal number XYZ 123456 and 123456 could be two different seals..)
- Fraud committed by wilful usage of similar number patterns (Seal number XYZ 123456 and 123456 could be two different seals..)
- Seal broken due to theft/pilferage and a new seal with a different number is now on the container
- Seal broken due to customs inspection and then resealed but manifest not amended
But what should a receiver do when there is a seal number discrepancy between manifest and physical container..??
This question was raised by a reader of this blog (Ashly Samson)..
Whatever the reason for seal number discrepancy, there are a few standard actions that the consignee must take..
1.. Immediately advise the shipper of this discrepancy and check if there could have been any mistakes from their side with regards to the seal number they provided to the shipping line..
(Remember, while the shipping line may provide the seal in most cases, the shipper, their agent, their packing warehouse or their transporter (basically whoever is sealing the container finally) may not always use the same seal that has been given to them by the shipping line..
In most cases there is no cross verification of the seal numbers on the containers by the shipping line as the shipper is expected to use the seal that they have been given..
In some cases, the shipping line may not provide the seal and the shipper may be using their own seal and here again, their agent, their packing warehouse or their transporter (whoever is sealing the container finally) may not always use the same seal that has been given to them by the shipper whereas the shipper may have used this seal number on the shipping instruction they give to the shipping line..
So the shipper and shipping line will be under the impression that the seal number declared on the shipping instruction is the seal number on the container..)
2.. Advise the shipping line of this discrepancy and if point 1 above has been cleared with the shipper, then put the shipping line on notice for all costs, consequences, damages and claims as the seal number was correct when it was handed over to the shipping line at the port of load..
3.. Notify the shipping line of your intention to conduct a joint survey of the condition of the contents of the container in order to ascertain any issues such as damage or loss of goods..
4.. Notify your insurance company of potential loss of cargo or damage to cargo and follow their instructions.. As a consignee it is important that you know what to do when your cargo is damaged..
5.. Carry out the joint survey to ascertain and ensure that there is no pilferage, theft or loss of cargo..
On the other hand if you are a shipper, it is important that you know how to seal a container to avoid theft, pilferage due to your container being sealed incorrectly.. Such theft/pilferage may not be covered by your insurance because the container was sealed incorrectly..
Below are two methods of correctly sealing containers..
In a post about Seal Reporting Requirements for Containerised Goods, Michael Poverello wrote
Supply chain security in the maritime environment is underpinned by the need for seal integrity and the movement of ‘containerised’ cargo requires physical validation of the ‘integrity’ of cargo from its point of dispatch to point of delivery at destination..
This is not wholly a customs requirement but at the same time one which any legitimate trader would expect in respect of the safe and secure transportation of his/her cargo..
For example, in South Africa, a great deal of importance is placed by SARS (South African Revenue Services(Customs)) on seal reporting requirements for containerised goods which you can read here..