Published: 1 August 2017

Britannia Members have received several claims in recent years relating to heat damaged soyabean cargo.

Claims of this nature can be relatively expensive because of the high value of a soyabean cargo. A review of the claims encountered gives some practical pointers for consideration by the crew.


There are two main problems encountered, both of which relate to pre-shipment quality of soyabean cargo:

i) Soyabeans loaded at a temperature over 30°C, with moisture content over 11.5% for

voyages over 20 days are at a high risk of selfheating and associated damage.

ii) Soyabeans may suffer heat damage or blackening prior to loading. Shippers may seek to mitigate by mixing this with sound cargo. There is usually a tolerance in any cargo for off-spec or discoloured cargo, but it may be difficult to determine on a visual inspection that cargo has, for example, less than 1% blackened beans (on spec) rather than 3% (off spec).

Poor ventilation during the voyage is often blamed for the damage arising. However, if there is sweat damage due to lack of ventilation, this is likely to affect only the top layer of cargo in the stow. Where damage is spread more evenly throughout the stow, this points to a problem with the quality of cargo itself. However, Chinese courts may not accept this position, so precautions should be taken in advance if possible.


Before loading

  • Extra care should be exercised by crew when loading soyabeans in South America or USA for carriage to China, in particular, after a rainy period, and where delivery will be between August and October.
  • Members should request a certificate of quality from the shippers prior to loading, if possible. This should set out figures for the moisture content, foreign material, heat damaged kernels, total damaged kernels and split kernels.
  • If the shipper cannot provide a certificate, confirmation of the moisture content should be requested in writing.
  • Where there is any apparent risk of high moisture content or pre-existing damage , or where a problem is actually observed, it may be advisable to take joint samples of cargo with shippers at the loadport to ascertain the average moisture content and temperature of the cargo. Samples can be retained for analysis later in the event of a claim arising.

During loading

  • Check cargo thoroughly throughout loading as different quality cargo may be presented during this process. Pay particular attention to any apparent moist, blackened or caked kernels.
  • Take care during loading to close hatchcovers rapidly in the event of rain and to record any such activity properly in both logbooks and statements of facts.
  • Cargo temperature and apparent condition should be checked and recorded whenever operations permit, for example during pauses in loading operations and in particular during any longer delays that happen.

During voyage

  • Full ventilation records should be maintained throughout the voyage. These should take into account the ‘three degree rule’, which states that: ventilation can take place at any time when the outside air temperature is at least 3 degrees cooler than the cargo temperature on loading. They should record cargo temperature, air temperature and accurate ventilation settings during both day and night.
  • During the voyage, hatchcover drain valves should be checked for any condensation which may indicate self-heating. Any condensation should be recorded.
  • During the voyage, wherever possible, the condition and temperature of the cargo should also be checked, always taking into account safety and operational restrictions.

During discharge

  • As with loading, if there is any rainfall during discharge, this should be recorded and hatchcovers closed quickly.
  • In the event that a problem with cargo condition is observed, Members should contact the Club, who will arrange for a surveyor and any other experts to assist. If the master or crew are in any doubt, they should not hesitate to contact the Club, via local Correspondents, who can provide guidance as may be required.