Shipping goods, especially to international markets, will not always go according to plan. To help minimise the risks ensure your contract is clear in the responsibilities of each party by using the correct International contract terms (Incoterms). If you are using a shipping company, you need to be prepared to make a complaint if a delivery is delayed or damaged.

Steps to make a successful claim:

  • Determine what type of complaint you have
  • Make a claim as soon as possible
  • Have all the necessary documents to hand
  • State the most favourable solution to your complaint (e.g. repair, replacement, compensation, etc)

There are two main types of complaints:

Delay claim – this is when a pickup date has been missed or the shipment has been delivered late.

Before signing a contract, you and your shipping company should agree on the dates that your shipment is to be picked up and delivered. Remember that if you have not requested guaranteed service, your shipping company is obligated to transport your cargo within what the regulations define as “reasonable dispatch”. This means that the pickup and delivery of your shipment should be completed on the agreed dates.

However, this is subject to any unforeseen circumstances or conditions that are beyond the control of the company, which might cause delay. Delays due to weather, highway construction, and mechanical breakdown do occur and you have to be aware of them. If you take out a guaranteed service contract then make sure you read the terms and conditions to find out what this really means.

Loss and damage claim – covers the loss or damage of your shipment.

Carefully read the terms and conditions offered by your shipping company on the loss or damage of your goods during shipment. Make sure you purchase goods-in-transit insurance if the shipping company's policy does not meet your requirements.

Making a claim

There are usually deadlines to meet when filing a claim. In the case of damaged delivery, you usually have 14 days to make a claim. For non-deliveries, you have 120 days from the date of issue of the bill of lading.

The necessary information you might need:

  • Exact date of delivery
  • Contract number
  • Description of damage
  • Cost of damage, delay or non-delivery