Successful recovery from forwarding agent for wet container goods

This was about a shipment of two containers of paper rolls from Hamburg to Portugal by sea. While at sea the paper rolls stored upright in one of the containers became waterlogged from below, so that the paper cores deformed and brought only scrap value. The salt water tests performed by a surveyor were positive.

The opposing party subsequently rejected liability with the argument that there had been no unusual event at sea, and the wetness of the goods was accordingly probably due to condensation. They further argued that the positive salt water tests were due to the high salt content of humidity at sea. That the container appeared undamaged on handover was not disputed. It was not possible to establish subsequent damage as the container was no longer available for inspection by the surveyor.


Paper Industry



„Often, unusual and creative arguments are needed to present a questionable course of damage.”

Our Approach:

the positive salt water tests suggested that moisture from condensation was unlikely. It is also basically unlikely that a lot of condensation would occur in a shipment from a cold climate – in this case, Hamburg in winter – to a hot Portugal. Paper rolls also have much less intrinsic moisture than e.g. known vulnerable goods such as coffee or cocoa beans. Unusual support from rough calculations enabled us to get incorruptible physics on our side.

Given the prevailing average temperature and humidity on the journey we were able to calculate that the maximum possible ambient humidity in the 40 foot high container implied a water content of 0.7-2 litres of water. By contrast, covering the floor of the container completely with water to a height of 5 mm would require c. 150 l of water. A further point to consider is that moisture from condensation would also be precipitated on walls and roof, and 100% of the humidity would never condense. The paper rolls were also not moistened to a height of only 5 mm, but c. 15 cm which even assuming capillary forces would require exposure to a depth of water of several centimetres. The volume of water required for waterlogging by condensation would accordingly be around 4,000 times greater than what was physically possible.

The result:

after further discussion of this argumentation we were able to achieve an appropriate out-of-court settlement, in contrast to the previous strict rejection of liability. This case shows that unusual and creative arguments are often needed to present a questionable course of damage. It is naturally all the more helpful if you know the laws of nature are on your side.


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