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Reefer claims spike during pandemic

SWEDEN: A new report has identified a 270% increase in refrigerated (reefer) container claims during the pandemic with temperature variation, poor monitoring and mechanical failure being major issues.

The report from marine insurance company The Swedish Club blamed the pandemic peak on disruptions in the supply chain, with a high number of reefer containers being delayed either in port or during transportation to and from port via road or rail.

Between 2021 and 2022 the Club saw an increase in reefer container claims of 270%, with 4.1% of all container vessels having a reefer claim in 2020 compared with 11.4% in 2021. Reefer containers are the main cause of all container claims with 30% of the Club’s total container claims being due to refrigerated cargo damage over the last five years.

“Reefer containers are very sensitive to fluctuations in temperature. During the pandemic, we saw disruptions during the many regional lockdowns – the majority of the claims were from China, but the situation was widespread,” said Joakim Enström, the company’s senior loss prevention officer and author of the report.

“This emphasises the importance of monitoring cargoes properly and keeping correct records. If goods have already been damaged down the supply chain, then the onus is on the crew to demonstrate they have taken proper care of the container, from the moment it is on board until it leaves the vessel,” he said.

Over the last five years temperature variation (18%), poor monitoring of the reefer unit (7%) and reefer mechanical failure (5%) have in total contributed to 30% of total container claims. This compares with wet damage at 27% and physical damage at 19%.

The report, Container Claims – Refrigerated Containers, provides loss prevention advice, demonstrates the Club’s findings through statistics, and presents a series of case studies identifying real-life common mistakes made when dealing with reefer containers on board ship.

A copy of the publication can be downloaded free of charge here.

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