Do I need cargo insurance for my shipment..??

Cargo insurance is a type of insurance that covers/compensates a buyer or seller of goods against cargo damage or loss of cargo..

Despite insurance having been around for centuries, there is still a feeling that any form of insurance is a “grudge purchase”.. By its nature, insurance is an intangible benefit, one that can only be tested under adverse circumstances and there is nothing more adverse than cargo damage..

From a

  • Local (Street to Street, City to City, Town to Town) shipment;
  • to Provincial shipment within the same province/state;
  • to National shipment within the country;
  • to Regional trade within regional trade blocs like EU, BRICS;
  • to Global trade between countries

there are several modes and types of trade/shipments around the world..

And where there is a shipment, there is a possibility of cargo damage or cargo theft or cargo being abandoned..

How does cargo damage occur

In every cargo shipment, a CARRIER is contracted to carry the goods from point A to point B by rail, road, sea, inland waterway or a combination of these modes.. A carrier maybe a Road hauler (trucker), Rail operator or a Shipping line..

do i need cargo insurance - shipping and freight resource

A carrier uses a CTU (Cargo Transporting Unit) which may be a freight container, a swap body, a normal vehicle, railway wagon(s) or any other similar unit used in intermodal transport for the transportation of these goods..

The cargo packed inside a CTU goes through various motions while it is in transit – whether it is by road, rail or sea.. Let us see some of these movements as it is important to understand these before we talk about cargo insurance..


Movement by Road

If you consider the movement of cargo by road, there are several forces acting on the cargo during transport caused by the movement of the truck, the gradient of the road, the camber of the vehicle, the speed of movement, unexpected stops etc..

Your cargo can experience

  • Gravitational force
  • Frictional force
  • Random Deceleration
  • Random Acceleration
  • Centrifugal force
  • Vibratory force


do i need cargo insurance


These forces may cause the sliding, tipping and wandering of cargo which could seriously damage the cargo and/or other assets or human beings..

Needless to say, the cargo must be secured sufficiently to withstand all these forces en route..


Movement by Rail

If you consider the movement of cargo by rail, there are several forces acting on the cargo during transport caused by the movement of the rail wagon, vibration of the rails, the speed of movement, unexpected stops etc..

Your cargo can experience

  • Longitudinal and horizontal forces
    • During braking
    • Acceleration
  • Transverse horizontal forces
    • Wagon oscillation (yaw) during transport
  • Gravitational force
  • Frictional force
  • Random Deceleration
  • Random Acceleration
  • Centrifugal force
  • Vibratory force


do i need cargo insurance - shipping and freight resource


These forces may cause the sliding, tipping and wandering of cargo which could seriously damage the cargo and/or other assets or human beings..

Needless to say, the cargo must be secured sufficiently to withstand all these forces en route..


Movement by Sea

Even if you are in shipping or in the business of exporting and importing it would be good for you to understand a bit about the laws of physics, the connection between shipping and physics, concepts like velocity, inertia and how it applies to the movement of the ocean, and the movement of cargo inside containers while it is in transit..

As I wrote above, cargoes packed inside a CTU can experience intense longitudinal and transverse forces during road, rail and these forces could cause physical damage..

The worst movement a cargo undergoes maybe while it is at sea.. Unlike road and rail transport, while at sea, a ship can move in 6 different ways as shown here..


do i need cargo insurance


Each of these movements causes a different kind of stress on the cargo packed inside the container and if there is movement of cargo inside the container, there is a greater chance of it damaging the container and even coming out of the container..

Let me give you an example that a lot of us can relate to.. You are in the back seat of a car and you are not wearing your seat belt and the driver hits a speed bump at 80 km an hour..

Most likely you will be thrown up from your seat and hit the roof of the car causing possible injury/damage and definite pain..

Now imagine steel coils or granite blocks, moving inside the container when the ship is undergoing a heaving motion (similar to hitting a speed bump in a fast car) on the rough seas..

In terms of rolling, ships have been recorded with rolling movements of up to 40 degrees, so you can visualise those coils and granite blocks moving inside the container 40 degrees from side to side hitting the side walls with force.. Some of those coils and blocks could be 5 tons and upwards each..

When you visualize these movements, you can imagine the stresses that the cargo inside the container goes through especially if it is not packed and secured properly and allowed to move around inside the container..


Reality of cargo damage and requirement of cargo insurance

So why am I talking about cargo damage instead of whether you need cargo insurance..?? Because as per UK P&I Club’s claim statistics cargo damage is the leading cause of cargo claims.. The main types of cargo claims is shown below..

do i need cargo insurance - shipping and freight resource

Let’s face it, when was the last time, you as a shipper thought about all of the above mentioned facts of how cargo gets damaged.. These facts may not be at the top of your agenda points because more often than not, your focus is on the business, the focus is on getting the goods to the buyer in time and getting your money..

The business of packing, securing and transportation of the goods is left to someone else (usually a 3rd party) to handle..

In the minds of some of the shippers, they may feel that since the distances for some of the shipments are short, say in a City to City shipment or a Provincial shipment they may not feel the need to insure the goods.. Or they may feel that they should not be liable for insurance as they may have interpreted the terms of sale incorrectly..

Whatever the circumstances, the fact is that, ANYTHING can happen to your cargo while it is in transit including being damaged or stolen whether you like it or not, whether you are able to control it or not..

As discussed in a previous article in this blog, In USA, cargo theft is highly concentrated in six states and in certain cities and truck stops.. Thefts are more frequent on weekends and spike during holidays.. And internationally, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa are three of the worst countries for cargo theft according to FreightWatch International..

In Mexico alone, more than 6000 cargo theft incidents were reported in one year, most of them being truck hijackings.. In the U.S., most commonly stolen products are food and beverages, followed closely by metals and electronics..

In a lot of the cases, while there may be every intention by the buyer or seller to insure the goods, incorrect interpretation of the terms of sale or Incoterms chosen could lull you into thinking that the other person has insured the goods or it is the other person’s responsibility to insure the goods..

You may also have faced a situation wherein you might have been misguided by your service provider(s)..

If your cargo is not covered sufficiently by insurance and cargo damage or total loss happens due to any of the above movements, you as the buyer or seller will be sitting with the loss..

Therefore, the answer to the question “Do I need cargo insurance for my shipment” is YES, MOST CERTAINLY.. In your own interest and the interest of your business, you need to ensure that your cargo is sufficiently covered by cargo insurance..

In this very useful article by NAU, Muthu Jagannath says that while insured cargo interests are able to deal with both Salvage and General Average expeditiously through their insurers, uninsured cargo interests generally face difficulties as they would not only have to make various arrangements but also provide securities as may be demanded for Salvage and General Average..

These securities can run into thousands or millions of $$$ which clients may not have..


Types of cargo insurance

There are different types of cargo insurance but for your cargo to be sufficiently covered by cargo insurance, you need any of the A,B, or C clauses published by the Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA) and International Underwriting Association of London (IUA)..


C Clauses – Risks covered

1.1        loss of or damage to the subject-matter insured reasonably attributable to
1.1.1     fire or explosion
1.1.2     vessel or craft being stranded grounded sunk or capsized
1.1.3     overturning or derailment of land conveyance
1.1.4     collision or contact of vessel craft or conveyance with any external object other than water
1.1.5     discharge of cargo at a port of distress
1.2        loss of or damage to the subject-matter insured caused by
1.2.1     general average sacrifice
Image for cover all risks1.2.2     jettison


B Clauses – Risks covered

All the above plus:

1.2        loss of or damage to the subject-matter insured caused by
1.2.1     general average sacrifice
1.2.2     jettison or washing overboard
1.2.3     entry of sea lake or river water into vessel craft hold conveyance container or place of storage
1.3        total loss of any package lost overboard or dropped whilst loading on to, or unloading from, vessel or craft.


A Clauses – Risks covered

All risks are covered.. If the goods are damaged in transit and it could not be proven that the carrier caused the damage, the shipper would not be able to recover the loss.. “All Risks” insurance provides protection without having to prove carrier liability..

Just remember that “All risks” are not “All Risks” in that there has to have been a happening..  Something has to have happened that was NOT EXPECTED..

All the clauses covers general average plus “Both to Blame” collisions in case where containers are lost at sea due to collision of two ships like in the case of CHONGLUNJ3010 and NEW SAILING 2..

But also watch out for exclusions which are clearly spelt out in clauses 4, 5, 6 and 7..


But is my cargo not covered by the carrier’s insurance..??

Yes, sure, you could argue that the carrier (transporter, rail operator, shipping line) also may have their own insurance cover and you can claim for the damages from the carrier for any damage that happened while the cargo was in their care..

The Carrier’s Cargo Liability insurance covers a carrier against their liability for loss to their customer’s goods during transit.. But this Goods In Transit (GIT) insurance is specifically structured to insure the carrier’s liability rather than the goods itself..

These policies usually limit the carrier’s liability and these liability limits may usually be found in the terms and conditions advised to you by the carrier or their GIT cover.. In the case of a shipping line you can find these liability clauses on Page 1 of the bill of lading..

So unless you are covered sufficiently by cargo insurance as above, you may have a situation wherein you sold the goods to the buyer, they may have paid you for it or may not have paid for it yet, but you didn’t take insurance on the goods and the goods are damaged..

Eventually you may end up paying the buyer back, lose money on your stock and also stand to risk future businesses..



So, the point I am making is that, your cargo could get damaged, stolen or lost at any time during its journey from the supplier’s warehouse to the final receiver :

  • while cargo is in the possession of the seller,
  • while cargo is being packed into a container,
  • while cargo is being loaded onto a truck,
  • cargo is in transit by sea, road or rail,
  • while cargo is being offloaded at delivery,
  • while cargo is in the possession of the buyer
  • etc etc etc

These damages could be caused by

Even if you have done everything correctly, if others didn’t follow the processes, your cargo could end up getting caught in situations like General Average..




Do you have any anecdotal episodes relating to cargo insurance that you would like to share..?? I am all ears..


By the way if you are interested in understanding and learning more about the types of cargo damages, the reason why it happens, the preventive measures to be followed to avoid cargo damage and how it should be handled, download my Essential Guide to Cargo Damage..

*** End of Article ***

12 thoughts on “Do I need cargo insurance for my shipment..??”

  1. i did not get my consignment (of bananas) insured and it has been damaged by the shipper due to temperature malfunctioning. Now can the shipper blame me for not doing so? Can the shipper say that he won’t pay the amount since no insurance was done and had I done the insurance, i would not have faced the issue

    • If you had insurance, you could have claimed from your insurance.. But if shipper made a mistake with the temp settings they cannot absolve themselves as well.. But if you didn’t take insurance that would be bad for you..

  2. Thank you for the good article. We have cargo in Mexico, during transport via cargo trucking, the cargo stolen. What could we do to recover the loss? Appreciate your kind help.

  3. Gents

    I need assistance, we had shipped a container of personal effects after 11 yrs in Dubai from Dubai to UK in March. The container was lost overboard. The container was lost in Karachi port and is unsalvageable. We insured with Total Loss insurance. Currently the insurers and loss adjusters are not giving good vibes to our claim. Can we follow this up elsewhere,.

  4. Yes, good point! Just last week, reviewing the coverage of our corporate cargo policy and that of a subsidiary company in Colombia, I noticed that one excluded Ivory Coast as a war risk and the other one didn’t. The insurer is the same for both but each policy is handled by the country office. This was relevant as we periodically ship from Abijan to Barranquilla and, in case of an incident, this discrepancy could become a point of friction.

  5. If you have cargo insurance with worldwide coverage make sure to learn the exceptions. I had to deal with an especial insurance when shipping cargo to Iran, with a lot of restrictions such as flag exclusions, transshipment ports restrictions, etc.


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