Offshore Logistics

Types of cargo damage & how to prevent it

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To please a client, it is vital to ensure that the product arrives in good condition, as well as to save money and avoid rework loops in the complicated supply chain operations.

While you try to take excellent care of shipments in long transit, some circumstances are beyond your control, and accidents can happen at any time and in any place, resulting in cargo damage.

Many supply chain industry executives are unaware of the many forms of cargo damage, how and why it occurs, and how it may be avoided to save time, money, and the inherent irritation that comes with dealing with cargo damage claims.

Here’s a fast read to help you understand the most common forms of cargo damage, how to minimise your risk, and what to do if your cargo is damaged.

What to do in case of cargo damage?

What are the different types of cargo damage?

Physical damage

Physical damage occurs when cargo is damaged as a result of falling, rolling, breaking, or being knocked during transportation, among other things.

The most common source of physical damage is improper stowage inside the container, which causes damage.

Stowage errors include inaccurate, inappropriate, and inadequate lashing, poor weight distribution, and improper loading, all of which compromise cargo stability.

Damage due to water

Water damage to cargo is caused by exposure to liquids and wet conditions.

Changes in climatic conditions, such as moisture, condensation during travel, or seawater entering into the container owing to microscopic breaches, might cause damage.

Condensation can also occur when sensitive materials are transported in the wrong sort of container, such as a regular container rather than a vented container.

Damage from Contamination

Damage to a cargo caused by contamination or poisoning, rendering it unsuitable for human consumption or other industrial or operational use.

Another commodity can contaminate a cargo in a variety of ways, including:

  • inadequate cleaning after a previous cargo
  • incorrect storage before transportation
  • subsequent exposure to a contaminant
  • poor separation from another commodity in the same cargo area

Damages related to reefers

The damages are rather prevalent and are caused by

  • reefer equipment
  • mismanagement
  • power outages
  • decomposition
  • thawing
  • freeze damage
  • over-ripening
  • bruising
  • off-size
  • discolouration of items in transportation

These are all examples of reefer cargo damage.

Inappropriate temperature settings, inadvertent human mistakes, improper storage, and insufficient air circulation are all possible causes of harm.

Damage from Infestation

The presence of a significant number of insects or animals, particularly rats, in a shipment causes infestation damage.

This form of damage is most common in agricultural items that are transported as cargo.

Infestation damage can also lead to contamination, rendering items unfit for human consumption.

Damage to goods in transit can also create delays since port officials require time to check the cargo for the source of the damage.

What are the different types of cargo damage?

The do’s and don’ts of reefer shipping


  • Ensure proper and stable packaging of the cargo.
  • Keep the reefer temperature and humidity at the prescribed levels. 
  • Ensure proper ventilation. 
  • Pre-cool the cargo where required. 
  • Get your cargo insured. 


  • Do not stow the cargo above the load line mark.
  • Do not allow tight stuffing as it may block the airflow. 
  • Do not allow gaps between pallets and the door.
  • Do not miss shipment deadlines. 

How to prevent cargo damage?

It is essential for shippers, manufacturers and importers alike to take concrete steps to reduce the risk of cargo damage in order to save financial losses. 

However, the following are some ways to prevent cargo damage:

  • Use the right type of containers for shipping each product. 
  • Use proper lashings and dunnage material to avoid excessive movement of the cargo. 
  • Choose your transit room carefully if the cargo is susceptible to wet damage. 
  • Seal the container doors properly before shipment.
  • Check frozen cargo for issues like dehydration, odors, colour change, etc. 
  • Examine for signs for upward temperature deviation. 
  • Do not mix incompatible products. 
  • Use technology-enabled services that provide real-time updates of the cargo in transit, the condition of goods, etc to constantly check for damages. 

What to do after the cargo has been damaged in transit?

In case of cargo damage being reported, document it with photos and videos to file for a cargo damage claim. This process may help you get complete/part of the financial losses that happened during the transit.


In conclusion, we have discussed what are the different types of cargo damage which includes physical damage as well as damage due to water.

We also talked about damage from contamination and infestation as well as damage related to reefers.

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