Marine Surveyor Report on Table Grapes

Marine Surveyor Report on Table Grapes

Apr 1, 2020 | Jeff Honey


I received e-mail last week from a marine surveyor asking about a container of Thompson seedless grapes and how well they could stand a transportation delay of nine days. Although the temperature recorder was not located in the container, the temperatures on arrival were between 0 °C and 1.6°C.

There were two sizes, so they were surveyed separately, as they should have been. “By the numbers”, and by that, I mean compared to the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation’s (DRC) Good Arrival Guidelines, one lot passed and one lot failed to meet Good Arrival, BUT, both surveys stated that “Grapes have a rubbery feel but a good flavor.” If the grapes are “rubbery,” they do not meet the requirements of the Canadian grade standard for being “sound,” as shown here or the USDA’s definition of “firm” here. Both surveys also noted ambering and some shriveling around the capstems.

Overall, this was one of the better surveys that I have reviewed over the years. Not all marine surveyors are as good. You should keep that in mind as we deal with COVID-19 and the effects that could be coming. While it is the shipper’s right to receive a federal inspection during a dispute, you also have a responsibility to provide some kind of an independent report on condition to the shipper if the federal inspection is going to be delayed. If, for some terrible reason, the number of available Destination Inspection Service (DIS) inspectors dropped due to illness, the receiver is still responsible for providing something describing the condition of a load. “If inspectors are not available within 24 hours, you should talk to your supplier/seller about it and discuss the possibility of requesting a private survey.” That quote is taken from a DRC article posted here.

When you have time, review some of the surveys that you have received over the last few years.  Compare them to some DIS inspection certificates for the same commodities and determine which surveyors look like they know what they are doing. Compare the wording, the structure, the general terms or descriptions that were used. If you do have to go down that road, get an idea now of who should be doing a survey for you if you need one. Make sure that you have a written agreement with the shipper to use a surveyor, and do not cancel your DIS inspection request.

Believe it or not, not everyone whose business card says “marine surveyor” is a marine surveyor, and not all accredited marine surveyors have experience inspecting fresh fruits and vegetables.  As the buyer of their services, it is your right to call and ask these types of questions before you hire one. It is in the best interests of both your company and the shipper to get a survey that is useful in the settlement of a dispute.