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IS a draft survey reliable? No. And this is the story.


On November 25, 1995, C Export Co. allegedly loaded on board the vessel M/V “Nina” at the Port of Darrow, Louisiana, U.S.A., 3,300 MT of soya bean in bulk for delivery to SM Enterprises (SM) at the Port of Manila.


The carrier arrived in Manila on January 25, 1996 and docked at the inner anchorage of South Harbor. The subject shipment was discharged to the receiving barges of the arrastre operator, Arian Terminal Services, Inc. (ATI) and received by the consignee. However, the consignee later claimed to have received only 3,100.137 MT instead of the manifested 3,300 MT and subsequently filed a claim for the shortage of 199.863 MT against ATI. Its claim was denied.


SM subsequently filed with the Regional Trial Court of Manila an action for damages against ATI. The RTC of Manila relying on the “barge displacement method” rendered a decision holding ATI liable for the damages arising from the shortage.


ATI appealed the decision of the trial court to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the RTC decision.


In the Supreme Court, SM relied on the report/conclusion of its surveyor that there was a shortage using the “barge displacement method” as an evaluation of the weight of the cargo. But the SC held:


“Respondent [SM] relied on the Survey Reports to prove that the subject shipment suffered loss. x x x It can be seen that this method does not entail the weighing of the cargo itself, but as correctly stated by the petitioner [ATI], the weight of the shipment is being measured by mere estimation of the water displaced by the barges before and after the cargo is unloaded from the said barges.


 In addition, the fact that the measurements were done by the Surveyors in prevailing slight to slightly rough sea condition supports the conclusion that the resulting measurement may not be accurate. x x x.”


In other words, a draught survey as a weighing method may not be accurate and should not be completely relied upon. Hence, it would be better to prove conclusively the weight of a bulk shipment taken at the port of loading in the event of a claim for shortage by the consignee.

For questions or comments, email the writer at jtb@pac-atlantic.com.ph.

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