The Food & Agricultural Commodities department provides expert advice on a range of food, feed and other dry agricultural commodities, across the entire supply chain from field to consumer and especially relating to the shipment of these commodities as bulk, break-bulk, bagged, bottled, drummed, refrigerated, frozen and containerised cargoes.
The diversity of these commodities is striking and requires our specialist knowledge to be applied to investigations during worldwide live attendance and post-incident document based analysis.
The department applies scientific and commercial expertise to quality management in the international trade of food, feed and other agricultural commodities, with particular regard to damage causation, quantum, food safety and loss prevention. The department also assists in loss mitigation by applying its operational and commercial experience to advice on cargo utilisation, salvage and disposal.
Scope of work
Advice on high risk cargoes
Advice on potential food poisoning organisms such as Salmonella, Listeria etc
Advice on sampling protocols
Cargo disposal, loss mitigation, and salvage
Cargo contamination and tainting investigations
Cargo self-heating investigations
Cargo preservation in the event of fire
Commodity pricing studies
Delays, cargo care, and cargo monitoring
Expert reporting and opinion
Expert witness >
Food safety and toxicological studies
Forensic investigation of food spoilage
Fungi, moulds and mycotoxins
Incident investigation worldwide
Interpretation of laboratory results
Investigation of cargo deterioration
Laboratory attendance and witnessed analysis
Live attendance >
Moisture migration studies
Perishable cargo preservation
Pest identification, infestation and fumigation
Phytosanitary and quarantine issues
Pre-shipment quality and condition
Post incident investigations >
Quality and quantity disputes
Reefer performance studies
Stowage and ventilation
Temperature abuse and cold chain evaluation
Water ingress and wet damage investigations
Experts & Consultants
The Food & Other Dry Commodities department was founded under Frazer Imrie.
CWA is regularly appointed to survey and investigate a range of damage to grains that includes wetting, heating, mould damage, insect infestation, inappropriate ventilation, out of grade or specification, GM issues and contamination, for cargoes of maize, wheat, barley and malt, and others. We are expert in the heat transfer and moisture movement that can contribute to damage in bulk grain.
CWA is regularly engaged in assessing claims arising in a range of bulk and bagged rice shipments, especially those loaded in Asia for discharge in West Africa. In particular, CWA has been extensively involved in a number of incidents involving shipments of rice, where detailed surveys and inspections were made at both the loading and discharge ports. We frequently apply our knowledge of local political, regulatory and trading conditions when assessing the likelihood or extent of an alleged cargo claim.
CWA undertakes investigations into the damage arising from marine shipment of high value oilseeds, oilseed meals and nuts. We provide expert advice on the expected quality changes to the extracted oils and co-products that often result from elevated moisture and self-heating damage, with a particular focus on their intended uses.
CWA is especially experienced in the issues arising from the global trade and shipment of soya beans from South America to China. CWA also advises on national standards and international guidelines, the practical assessment of condition during loading and considerations for safe carriage for a range of oilseed cargoes, including sunflower seed, rapeseed, linseed, cottonseed and castor seed, amongst others.
We are also experienced in the issues surrounding the shipment of a range of nuts, including premium commodities such as brazil, cashew and pistachio nuts. We have investigated Salmonella contamination during nut processing within a food production plant.
CWA is regularly engaged in the investigation of damage to raw and refined sugar shipped in bulk and bags. We are knowledgeable on the entire refining process, from harvesting of cane and beet in the field, through to the production of refined table sugar and molasses. We frequently evaluate the physical nature of the damage alongside the scientific analysis of quality parameters and in the context of our knowledge of the production process, in order to ensure effective mitigation of the loss.
CWA provides expert advice in relation to a range of cakes, meals and pelletized animal feeds, including assessing whether these cargoes represent a hazard for shipment and have been appropriately classified under the IMSBC Code.
We often address the suitability of feeds for their intended use, particularly in relation to changes in nutritional value and the impact of smoke taint following extensive self-heating or fire, but also in relation to contamination with toxic substances and foreign bodies.
This often requires detailed laboratory analysis of samples and results interpretation, within the context of national and international feed hygiene and safety standards.
Refrigerated fresh produce, such as bananas, citrus and grapes, are sensitive cargoes that require careful control at each stage across the entire supply chain, including harvesting, pre-shipment handling and storage, during the laden voyage and during onward delivery into the market.
CWA frequently makes inspections of banana cargoes at loading, during transit or at discharge, in order to investigate the pre-shipment conditions, the performance of the ship or container and the nature and extent of the alleged damage.
We are often called upon to apply our knowledge of the technical, commercial and operational practices of major retailers, from supply chain management through to retail packaging, and to cargo claims.
High value goods such as coffee and cocoa are frequently associated with additional premium prices and especially so if they are produced on plantations accredited as Fair Trade or Organic. Damage to any such shipments can result in large claims.
These premium goods are frequently transported in dry box containers. CWA is very familiar with the problems that may arise during dry box shipping including self-heating, condensation, odour tainting, container sweat and subsequent mould damage. We have undertaken numerous dry box container investigations arising from claims on containerised products.
Frozen products, such as fish, shellfish and meat, are high risk cargoes that require specific carriage conditions to ensure they arrive in the desired condition. CWA investigates claims arising from containerised or reefer transport of these cargoes which often involve temperature abuse, freezer-burn, physical deformation and odour taint, that can arise as a result of the failure of the refrigeration unit. Subtle changes in quality and condition can lead to large claims due to the premium typically attracted by these high value cargoes, but can also lead to questions concerning food safety and suitability for intended use.
In addition to foods and feeds, we are regularly engaged in the investigation of claims concerning a range of other dry products, e.g. cotton, timber, logs, woodchip and biofuels. We are experienced in the investigation of damage to biofuel cargoes, such as palm kernel shells or crushed olive kernels, and in particular the impact on energy production of wetting and self-heating. We have also investigated problems with the liquefaction of olive products which can pose a serious threat to the lives of a vessel's crew.
Unlike conventionally grown food cargoes, food cargoes with organic certification require different shipment considerations. CWA regularly provides advice on the carriage of such cargoes including the treatment of infested organic grain cargoes where traditional fumigation methods are not an option. CWA has been involved with the arrangement of organically approved treatments for infested cargoes to ensure that the cargo does not lose its organic certification and associated price premium.
CWA is familiar with the problems arising from the handling and transport of new potato crops. We provide detailed advice on cargo care over all stages from pre-shipment, to marine carriage and post-discharge storage.
CWA frequently investigates ineffective, failed or repeated fumigations, fumigation fires and explosions, and persisting fumigation residues. We provide expert advice on legislation and international guidelines relating to insect infestations and the appropriate remedial fumigation procedures.
We are also knowledgeable in the treatment of infested organic cargoes, where traditional fumigation methods may not be appropriate and could incur significant financial losses. We rely on our knowledge of pests affecting stored food and feed products to provide expert opinion on the identification and likely origin of an insect infestation.
We often work alongside Fire and Marine colleagues to ensure that the condition of food and feed cargoes is also an important consideration of any remedial action plan following a collision, casualty or fire. This can be an important point in reducing the final losses, since these events are often associated with prolonged delays, abnormal cargo space environments and corrective activities. All of these could be detrimental to the quality and intended use of the food and feed cargoes, but also on occasion the safety of personnel. We have been engaged in the provision of ongoing cargo care and monitoring advice during lengthy delays following several high profile casualties.
CWA have investigated cases of self-heating within a range of food, feed and other agricultural products, including oilseeds and their associated meals, fishmeal, cocoa beans and cotton. We frequently have to apply our scientific expertise to evaluate causation and the mechanisms of heating within these cargoes.
CWA regularly investigates claims arising from the contamination of food and beverage cargoes (including frozen meat, refrigerated fruit, sugar, confectionary products and wine) tainted with chemical taints including hydrocarbons and foreign odours. CWA have also been involved in cases where bulk grain cargoes are contaminated with genetically modified (GM) grains and face rejection at disport as a result of local legislation which prohibits the importation of GM foods. CWA assists with the organisation of scientific analyses to determine the cause of the taint/odour as well as testing for GM content of food cargoes.
The Department is expert at handling the disposal of deteriorated food cargoes, including the specification and supervision of tenders, salvage sale and onward shipment, as required. We are aware of the major players in particular salvage markets but remain independent from the commercial sale of distressed cargoes in order to advise on the appropriateness of salvage evaluations.
CWA is frequently requested to provide expert opinion on market conditions and significant events within the international food and feed commodity fields, especially within the context of unrealistic cargo claims or poor loss mitigation.
CWA has also investigated the fluctuations in the annual yields of high value crops and carried out independent study into the volatility of the market prices and margins.
CWA acted on behalf of the producers of an ingredient, used in a wide range of processed foods, which was subsequently alleged to have been contaminated by a banned substance in one of its own constituent ingredients. CWA investigated the toxicological implications of the contamination, the analytical methods used and the statistical reliability of the analytical results to demonstrate that a significant product recall involving a large number of processed food product lines had no scientific basis.
CWA conducted detailed crop trials, both field and laboratory, to investigate the potential impact of particulate fall-out on commercial crops in the vicinity of industry.
CWA advised in a dispute concerning under-performance of a new food production plant. We undertook a plant survey and an evaluation of plant performance data.
We were also commissioned to undertake market research on alternative supplies of cocoa beans and cocoa butter for a newly privatised confectionery industry within the CIS.
Food, feed and other agricultural commodities can encounter many complex and unforeseen problems in transit because they are highly sensitive to their environment and handling.
Food and feed cargoes are susceptible to a unique set of risks because they are inherently perishable and prone to rapid deterioration. Unless action is taken swiftly, losses will usually be significant and sometimes total.
The following list of cargoes provides an indication of the cargoes with which the Food and Other Dry Commodities Department are experienced. This is not an exhaustive list so please do not hesitate to contact us should you have an enquiry relating to a cargo that cannot be found below.