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Liability due to incorrect temperature setting

In this article I will examine a reader’s question, regarding Reefer containers, PTI and liability due to incorrect temperature setting..

We booked a shipment with a shipping line and we asked the containers temp should be +10, however the PTI was made -10 which damaged our goods.image for reader question

Now the question is are we responsible as shippers or our transporters to check the temperature in the container before stuffing? or to verify the PTI report? knowing that our Bill of Lading read +10 as we requested.

Omar, firstly PTI is only an inspection conducted on an empty reefer container BEFORE RELEASE, to ensure the correct functioning of the cooling unit, temperature control and recording devices..

This is an internal function of the actual unit and is done by the system running various algorithms..

In certain countries where there is a requirementimage for machinery of authorities to certify the acceptance & suitability of the reefers, the PTI also references the basic condition of the units..

This inspection includes physically checking the container for structural damage, and ensuring that the inside of the container is clean and ready in all respect to receive cargo..

PTI does NOT include setting the temperature at the right degree..

The releasing depot should set the temperature prior release but the shipper and their service providers (transporter/pack point) should check the booking and ensure that the temperature is set properly before packing the cargo..

If the certifying authorities are present at the load point, they should check the temp settings as well..

In your specific case, you should verify the empty container release document from the shipping line as this will normally show what the set temp of the container should be..

That will give you an indication as to where the liability should be placed..

image for 10On the other hand, if the temp was set at -10 deg c and the shipping line received the full container at that temp and still issued the bill of lading at +10 deg c, then they also have some explaining to do..

One reefer expert is of the view that “based on a reasonable test, shipper should immediately place line on notice, especially since the BL shows +10 deg c”..

Most bills of lading will expressly indicate where liability starts and ends so this should also be checked..

At discharge a survey should be conducted and then the claim process should be followed i.e. invoices, subrogation if applicable, market loss & any offset already undertaken..

What is your opinion..?? Who do you think should be liable here..??


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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. Hello Hariesh,
    I’m handling a similar case against a shipping line and in my case, the booking temperature was 14°C and carrier in one of their correspondence stated the same. The BL is without the carriage temperature.
    The shipper picked the empty container, stuffed it and returned same to the line. The port authority then advised the line and shippers that the set temperature is at 18°c instead. The line informed the shipper to correct this saying that it’s not their duty to tamper with the reefer set temperature. The shipper and their technicians did the correction. Since cargo was on wrong setting for 6days, it let to damage which ended in total destruction.
    Shipping line has rejected the claim stating that temperature was not set by them and they advised shipper to correct it upon noticed.
    In my understanding of the art 3 duties of the carrier, setting the container temperature is included thus if this understanding is not wrong, the carrier should be held responsible for delegating their duty to another party.
    The challenge I have here is that the carrier per the Hague Visby rules is only liable when the cargo crosses the ship’s rail however my concern is whether the container is not part of the vessel described in Art 3?
    This situation is developing and yet to be concluded
    Could you share your thoughts on my understanding of the lines responsibility?
    Awaiting comments.

  2. We loaded cargo as per set temperature and it took transport to yard for plug in two hours and found that the temperature is not reaching the required temperature. When notified the shipping line, they informed that Responsibility of the merchants starts from collection of empty unit until empty return at POD. Is it shipper’s responsibility to repair the carrier’s malfunction unit under above clause in carrier’s bill of lading.

  3. Dear All.
    pls note in all cases, The shipper is ultimately responsible for EVERYTHING.
    Shipping lines do not accept any liability even you prove that fault at their end.

  4. Hi Hariesh,
    In my opinion the Shipping Line should be liable. That’s because the requested temperature must be informed in different steps of the process of booking a cargo. For example: you must to inform the requested temperature on the booking request (many times on Shipping Lines’ systems), after you must to confirm that on the SI (shipping instruction) even on the Shipping Lines’ systems or on INTTRA and, in addition some Shipping Lines even require a “Letter of Temperature” (Temperature instruction for reefer cargo in container).
    Note that the Shipping Line receives the instructions about the temperature to be set many times, so they should guarantee the correct temperature during the entire voyage.

    • Hi Hariesh,
      I don’t think so.
      For example, when I book a temperature-controlled cargo, sometimes the Packing Warehouse may could not have the expertise needed to operate or even check the controller display on the container, I mean that is not its role. I agree with you that a “double check” is always important, however, we cannot rely on the Packing Warehouse or even on others 3PL that have contact with the cargo during the transport to ensure that the temperature you’ve contracted with de Shipping Line is correct. I still thinking the Shipping Line is the party who have the responsibility of guaranteeing the required temperature during the transport (at least from the moment the container is loaded on board)

  5. My experience has been that the shipper or seller is the one that request what temperature is required. The steamship line booking is done stating the temperature required in the reefer container. It must be in F or C.

    The order is given to the truck line to picks up the reefer container at the temperature requested as per the booking and to call if not in accordance.

    When the reefer container gets to loading point, shipper’s door or its warehouse , the temperature must be check and verify if its OK for loading or not.

    If a reefer container is loaded with the wrong temperature, it’s the shipper/ seller liability or the warehouse that loaded. The gen set can be review as to the setting during the entire trip of the reefer container. If loaded with the wrong temperature the liability is the shipper/seller, it does not matter what the B/L reads , the booking is the controlling factor now.

    The inland B/L issued to the trucker also has a lot to do with the agent of the steamship company receiving the reefer container at the pier, since the temperature must be check . Here is another check point to look into. Is there a difference in this documentation?. Reefers are check a lot more than normal container since the SS knows there is more liability.

    • Hello Jvaras, although I agree that the shipper must review the setting of the temp during the trip of the reefer, I do not agree to your contention “it does not matter what the B/L reads”.. What is shown in the bill of lading is quite important especially when it goes into a claim situation such as this and a line just cannot endorse anything that is provided by the shipper on the bill of lading..

    • First of all once the PTI is done, the terminal will set the temperature requested by shipping line and the transporter will pick up the empty container from port. The transporter should be aware what is the temperature to be maintained when he takes the mty container from port. So its transporters duty to check the correct temperature before he picks the mty container eventhough if the liner has advised wrong temperature to the port. Hariesh…please comment…


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