10 ways to cope with abandoned cargo

Every year, only 100 containers are abonded all over the world. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things might look a bit different right now. For 10 tips on how to deal with abandoned cargo as a freight forwarder, read on.

  1. Whatever you do, do something. While it might not be your cargo that is loss, as a freight forwarder, you will still be held accountable in one way or another. The problems will never resolve themselves.
  2. Any “force majeure” should be includes as a separate clauses in your agreements to avoid any surprises when a “force majeure”, like a natural disaster, is invoked. In this case, it is also important to notify customers about the discharge of your obligation to perform.
  3. Make sure to review your contracts and identify your obligations as an exporter. This has become especially important in the current circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, as these kind of disputes have become much more common.
  4. Keep track of emails and other written notices and keep your client up to date. This will serve as proof that you did everything in your power to save the cargo, in case something goes wrong.
  5. If there is nothing more you can do to save the abandoned cargo, try to identify someone with local knowledge that can help you with any of the following three options: sell the goods to another party, re-export the goods, or destroy/donate/auction them.
  6. Always communicate with your customers about problems in your supply chain, whether you encounter disruptions with your terminals, lines, hauliers, vendors or agents. Make clear that the circumstances that caused their loss of cargo are genuinely beyond your control.
  7. Pay close attention to any container overdue and incurring charges. Stay in close contact with your customers. The sign that the consignee received arrival notification but was not contacted for 1-2 weeks may be an early warning sign.
  8. Confront the shipper/consignee with the fact that abandoning the cargo is never without consequences for themselves.  Since you want to pass all costs payable to the line onto the customer, it is important top regularly communicate about any detention and hold up you might encounter along the way.
  9. When faced with abandoned cargo, try to act quick and immediately contact the shipper. This will avoid escalation of extra costs, as they are often willing to come to a more commercially viable settlement. Also do not forget to contact your insurance company to check if your abandoned cargo is eligible for any kind of compensation.
  10. Avoid being indicated as shipper or consignee on the Master Bill of Lading, as this will put you in a direct contractual agreement with the shipping line. If you do not take this precaution, it might not be possible to use your liability insurance in case something goes wrong.