Steel Pre-Shipment Surveys: A Guide to Good Practice, Second Edition

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This unique illustrated guide is designed to help surveyors and masters worldwide ensure that shipping documents accurately describe the apparent order and condition of steel cargo when loaded. It recommends a set of 18 standard surface-condition clauses and 16 mechanical-damage clauses.

Detailed guidance is also provided on the inspection of weather- deck openings. First published in 1993, the guide is now a widely used reference in the international shipping industry. This second edition has a revised layout and minor updates, but the core clauses remain the same.



The need for pre-shipment surveys

Problems with implementation

The purpose of this guide


Allowing sufficient time

Give clear terms of reference


Surface-condition clauses

Examples of applying surface-condition clauses


Mechanical-damage clauses

Examples of applying mechanical-damage clauses


Allow time for proper repairs

Check all components of all openings

Carry out weathertightness tests


I Checklist for steel cargo survey report

Il Checklist for weather-deck openings survey report

III P&l clubs circular 28 February 1964



Most steel products rust and bend easily, particularly when carried at sea. Shipowners and operators – and ultimately their P&l insurers – are therefore usually first in the firing line when bent and rusty steel arrives at its destination.

As a result, shipowners, carriers, operators and P&l clubs now regularly commission independent pre-shipment surveys of steel cargoes to ensure that bills of lading and / or mate’s receipts accurately describe the apparent order and condition of the cargo when it was taken on board the ship. As a further precaution against rust claims, surveyors are also generally now asked to look at the weather tightness and ventilation of the holds in which steel cargo is carried.

However, rust is a long and gradual process of surface oxidation which may start as soon as a piece of steel is produced and end with its total structural degradation. Simply describing steel cargo as ‘rusty’ when shipped is thus of little help in defending a claim for severe corrosion. Conversely, shippers invariably refuse to accept that recently manufactured steel with traces of oxidation should be described as ‘rusty’.

To help matters the principal P&l clubs put out a circular on 28 February 1964 specifying 27 clauses which could be used to describe the degree of rust on steel cargo or its steel packing (see Appendix III). Ranging from ‘partly rust stained’ to ‘rust with pitting’, these are in use throughout the international shipping community.



Unfortunately, the P&I club clauses are still not accepted as an international standard. The world’s shipping community is not obliged to use the clauses – they are simply ‘permissible’ in ‘appropriate cases’. Furthermore, despite the applicability of the P&I club clauses to a broad range of rust conditions, the brevity of the clauses means they are still at risk of being misinterpreted. For example, there is little to distinguish ‘rust stained’ from ‘rusty’.

Carriers are therefore at a disadvantage when attempting to establish standard usage of the clauses – particularly when they are under pressure from exporters and importers to modify application of the clauses to suit their respective commercial positions.



The primary objective in producing this guide is to ensure correct and consistent usage of the P&I club clauses, thus enfranchising them with the status of an international standard method for describing steel cargoes.

In addition to 18 surface-condition clauses a further 16 mechanical-damage clauses are recommended. Together they provide sufficient flexibility to cover the entire spectrum of damage and defects which are likely to be encountered in pre-shipment survey work. With each clause a short, simple description is provided which more fully describes the condition to which the clause should apply. To ensure universal understanding, photographs are included to illustrate the application of the clauses with various types of cargo.

Guidance is also provided on the conduct of weather-deck opening surveys, which should form an integral part of every prudent pre-shipment survey. This includes details of the items which should be checked and a review of the advantages and disadvantages of the main types of weather tightness test.

Checklists are included in Appendices I and II to show the extent of information which should be provided in reports. This is as much to foster a consistent and professional approach among the international surveying community – which is increasingly exposed to negligence claims – as it is to eliminate misunderstandings between the world’s ports with regard to the clausing of shipping documents.

And, because surveyors are still told too little too late, a recommended procedure is set out for appointing and commissioning surveyors for this important role in international trade.


Title: Steel PreShipment Surveys: A Guide to Good Practice (Second Edition)
Edition: Second
Number of Pages: 33
Product Code: WS1717K
ISBN: ISBN 13: 978-0-9558257-3-6 (9780955825736), ISBN 10: 0-9558257-3-3 (0955825733)
Published Date: August 2019
Weight: 0.60 kg
Author: The North of England P&I Association Ltd