Hot tips for soybeans bound for China

Skuld senior claims executive Charles Qiu Yuhao has given members some tips on avoiding problems relating to soybeans that are being exported to China, the world’s leading importer of soybeans.  He noted that soybeans in their original form were not listed under the IMSBC Code.

Shipment in bulk is subject to the IMO International Convention for the Safe Carriage of Grain in Bulk (the Grain Code). Compared to other grain cargoes, soybeans were a perishable commodity and not meant to be stored for an extended duration.

The main cause for damage to soybean cargoes was their inherent sensitivity to high moisture contents. High temperatures at load ports made the cargo even more likely to suffer damage. Warm soybeans can release moisture, leading to a warm and humid atmosphere within the cargo bulk. This can allow mould to grow, resulting in self-heating and cargo damage during a lengthy sea voyage.

Approximate Allowable Storage Time for Soybeans (°C) 
Moisture Content (%) -1°C 4°C 10°C 15°C 21°C 26°C
  Approximate Allowable Storage Time (Days)
11 * * * * 200 140
12 * * * 240 125 70
13 * * 230 120 70 40
14 * 280 130 75 45 20
15 * 200 90 50 30 15
16 * 140 70 35 20 10
17 * 90 50 25 14 7
19 190 60 30 15 8 3

Converted to Celsius degree from North Dakota State University’s “Approximate Allowable Storage Time for Soybeans (

Because it was the leading soybean importer, China naturally produced the largest number and most costly soybean claims against shipowners. It was also well known that, notwithstanding Chinese law providing an exemption of carrier’s liability for loss or damage caused by “natural characteristics or inherent defect of the goods”, it was extremely difficult for shipowners to invoke that exemption in litigation.

What can owners do?

Based on recent case law, shipping lawyers Wang Jing & Co shared some tips which have been complemented by comments from Skuld’s Loss Prevention department:

  1. 1. Keep detailed ventilation logs
  2. 2. Make sure the ventilation records are consistent
  3. Document hard copies of the ventilation logs or email them daily
  4. 4.  Get a surveyor there
  5. Beware of delay in discharging port
  6. Keep track of the statutory inspection and sampling

These topics are covered in detail at: