Understanding the role of the receiver in cargo claims

Good things come to those who wait. Do they, now?

Sometimes, that long-awaited consignment is delivered to you and, to your dismay, you realise that your freight has been damaged. You may be tempted to play the blame game and point a finger at the carrier or shipper.

This behaviour won’t get you far. Instead, keep a cool head and act immediately to recover some of the lost value.

The first question you may want to ask yourself is:


What’s my main role as a receiver?

As a receiver or consignee, it’s your job to receive and collect the goods from the carrier.

And, in the process, you must ensure that they are received as agreed. In other words, you must inspect the products (i.e., nature, quantity, quality and packaging) upon arrival at the destination port, so any defect or discrepancy can be traced back to the carrier.

This procedure avoids liability disputes that may arise if a damaged consignment were examined at the buyer’s own premises.


What are the receiver’s responsibilities?

You’re responsible for taking all possible measures to ensure that any loss or damage to cargo can be resolved by means of a freight claim.

Let’s break the process down into 8 actionable steps:

1. Accept the damaged goods

Granted, you may be tempted to send the driver away. However, refusing to accept a damaged or short-shipped delivery may backfire on you.

For a start, keeping the cargo may help you determine whether the shipper is liable (e.g., poor or inadequate packaging), or if the harm occurred while the goods were in the custody of the carrier.

Plus, if you don’t accept the damaged freight, it may be sent back to the carrier’s warehouse for storage while the claim is processed. As a result, you may incur storage and processing fees.
And let’s not forget that most insurance policies require that you accept the freight and may commission a surveyor to verify the damage in person.

 2. Note any shortages or damages on the Bill of Lading (BOL) or proof of delivery (POD).

An unannotated delivery receipt serves as proof of undamaged delivery. So, make sure to note any issues resulting from the carriage and delivery of your cargo at the time of receipt.

And indicate the nature and severity of the damage. The more details, the better.

  • If the damage will render the product unusable, note it.
  • If there are any exceptions (e.g., cartons that are dented), note it.
  • If there are concerns about concealed damage, note it.

Writing “Subject to Inspection” won’t help your case. Rather, note “Damaged” and inspect your cargo thoroughly.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, take photographs of the damaged goods and keep them as visual supporting evidence.

Lastly, if the cargo is sensitive or high value, you may want to hire a third-party surveyor. A well-documented and clearly written survey report may tip the balance in your favour.

3. Reach out to your carrier or freight forwarder.

Let your logistics operator know that your freight was delivered in damaged condition. And do it sooner rather than later.

Even if you first notice the damage or shortage after the delivery, and you are aware that you have two weeks to file a damaged freight claim. Alert your carrier as soon as you notice that your delivery isn’t intact.

4. Keep the cargo and its packaging.

As inconvenient as it may be to store damaged freight, you should hold it while the claim is being processed.

Carriers are entitled to mitigate loss and, if you don’t give them the opportunity to salvage the damaged cargo, they may deny your claim or not pay it in full.

Having said that, if you’re dealing with cargo that spoils (e.g., food) or hazardous materials, outside disposal laws may supersede a carrier’s salvage rights.

5. Prevent further damage to freight.

Find a safe place to store the cargo and leave it there. Avoid moving it to minimise the odds of additional damage.

Also, if part of the cargo is wet, damaged or rotten, segregate it from cargo that is salvageable.

6. Pay your freight charges.

When you file your claim, you’ll need to attach a copy of your paid freight bill. Regardless of who is at fault, and even if your shipment is damaged, wrong or lost.

By paying your freight bill, you show your willingness to come to an agreement.

7. File your claim ASAP.

Don’t procrastinate. If you file a claim after the initial claim period, that claim will be voided.
Include all relevant evidence, such as:

  • Bill of Lading indicating damages.
  • Proof of delivery.
  • Paid freight invoice.
  • Sales invoice showing the price paid for the damaged goods.
  • Freight claim form or a letter with a detailed description of the loss and the claim amount.
  • Pictures of the damage.

Once your claim has been filed, keep copies of everything. Having evidence readily available strengthens your claim.

8. If your claim is denied, explore other avenues.

There are many options a receiver has after a freight claim is declined:

  • Submit additional documents. Prove that your claim is legitimate and fight the denial.
  • Engage the shipper. They may have additional documentation or leverage with the carrier.
  • Work with the carrier’s sales department. If the shipper or you are good customers, they may turn a blind eye.
  • File a lawsuit. Cargo carriers will often settle prior to court.


Freight claims are your means of recovering some of the lost value when goods are damaged or lost while in transit. If both shippers and receivers understand who’s responsible for the cargo at each time and work together, the claims process will be smooth and lead to a successful outcome.

And if you find yourself struggling to come to a fair settlement, Marlin Blue specialises in alternative dispute resolution. Send us your claim and we’ll figure it out for you.

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