Shippers load, stow and count or Shippers load and count or SLAC is a term that you would have seen in the description of the bill of lading for all shipments.. What does it mean to the line and to the shipper..??
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.. This absolves the ship/owner/charterer of any claims relating to missing or damaged cargo etc that might be levied upon them by the shipper at a later stage..
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.. The carrier relies on the information provided by the shipper in terms of the cargo, number of packages, weight and measurement..
Hence the clauses “SHIPPERS LOAD STOW AND COUNT” (SLAC) and “SAID TO CONTAIN” (STC) is put on the bill of lading to protect the carrier from any claims that the shipper might levy on them at a later stage..
For ex: Lets assume that the bill of lading states 1×20′ container STC 55 bundles of human hair and when the container reaches the destination and consignee unpacks the container to find that there is only 45 bundles.. The bill of lading carries the above clauses..
As long as the seal has not been altered or tampered with, the consignee or shipper cannot question or hold the carrier liable for the shortage because the carrier was not present at the time of the packing of the container and carrier doesn’t know what the Shipper Loaded, Stowed or Counted.. Bill of lading shows the details that was provided by the shipper, so the consignee must contact the shipper to take up this issue..
If however, the seal number has been altered or tampered with, that becomes a totally different story for another day..
(This article was originally published in 2011 and republished today with some changes)