All you need to know to take your cargo inspections to the next level

Yellow Flower
Yellow Flower
Yellow Flower

How can you make your inspections more efficient in order to avoid or protect yourself from such claims and prevent financial losses?

First things first: what exactly is an inspection and why do you need one? 

A cargo inspection involves checking and examining whether the cargo meets the specifications described on the shipping documents that accompany it. As mentioned, a good inspection process is essential to avoid potential claims and internal issues, but it can also serve as a final check to ensure that no defective goods will reach your customers and thus avoid reputation damage. 

Depending on when and where the inspection is carried out and what is inspected, different types of inspections and important aspects need to be considered.


Inspections happen in different places. The main distinction is between inbound and outbound inspections, i.e., depending on whether they are carried out where goods are received (inbound) or where they are handed over to, for example, a carrier (outbound).  

During an inbound inspection, the inspector examines and records the state of the incoming goods, focusing on damage and other non-conformities. If the cargo is damaged or does not adhere to the specifications, action must be taken. As a rule of thumb, you will communicate the state of the goods to the cargo owner in case of any (even minor) discrepancy and ask them for input. 

The outbound inspection focuses on ensuring that the cargo leaves in good condition. The cargo’s state must be examined and recorded comprehensively, ensuring that all sides of the cargo are properly checked. Just as for the inbound inspections, it is good practice to take action, like informing the owner of the cargo of the state of the goods, in case of damage or unconformity. 


Moreover, inspections can happen at different points in time. Generally, cargo can be inspected before, during, and after loading, as well as upon received.

Pre-loading or pre-shipment inspections are carried out when the goods return from production. They verify the products' quality through random sample checks before they are loaded into a shipping container, truck, or vessel. This gives place to a further inspection: the container loading inspection, which aims to check that the goods are handled and loaded correctly into the container for a safe transportation and delivery. In case the cargo is transported by truck, vessel or other means, the inspection will focus on the specific equipment used. 

Once the cargo is fully and securely loaded, a final inspection will go over the final details and ensure that the cargo fits correctly in the container or mode of transport and does not move in transit. Ensuring that the goods are properly secured with chains, ropes, or belts is called lashing inspection and is especially important when dealing with goods that do not usually fit wall to wall, such as coils and pallets.

Just as there is a container loading inspection, there is also a container unloading inspection, which occurs when the cargo is unloaded from the shipping container or mode of transport. This inspection mainly serves to check if the quantity and packing of the goods meet the specifications described on the unloading documents and if the goods were damaged during the transit.  


Depending on the type of commodity, the process of inspecting cargo can vary greatly. When it comes to detecting discrepancies, you will want to look for those discrepancies that are relevant to the commodity inspected. For example, some goods can be spoiled by humidity. In this case, aside from checking the quality, quantity and potential physical damage, you will also want to check the level of humidity in the container or vessel used.

Another example regards perishable goods like fruits. In some cases, samples may need to be cut open in order to examine the inside, as their quality cannot be assessed by only inspecting the outer appearance.  Or goods that travel inside containers, an empty container inspection must be carried out prior to loading. Evidence of any form of physical damage, such as dents and rust, has to be gathered and reported before loading the products into the container. This serves both as insurance against potential complaints from the shipping company or future users of the container, and as precaution against potential damage to the products’ quality.

The same applies to bulk cargo, which is not loaded into a container. The vessel's condition has to be assessed as adequate for the type of commodity that will be loaded into it. This type of inspection is called hold inspection and serves to verify that the cargo’s quality will not be affected or contaminated by the condition of the hold.

How to make your inspections easier and more efficient  

Although there are different kinds of inspections and multiple aspects to be considered when carrying out a cargo inspection, all inspections have in common the necessity to make sure that everything meets a defined set of requirements. After ascertaining the condition of the cargo, not only needs this information to be gathered and reported, it also has to be properly stored and made easily accessible for future reference.  

Usually, in case of visual discrepancies, photos are the main tool used to record the damage. When dealing with frequent shipments and multiple parties, photos can get easily lost and be hard to retrieve. However, inspections are about more than just taking photos; they are workflows where you collect valuable information on your cargo through forms, checklists and other documents. Managing this information correctly can make the difference between successfully protecting your business against unjust claims and incurring in harsh financial losses.

So, how can you make sure you have everything in one place so that you can access and share your data easily?

You need a comprehensive tool that allows you to gather, store and manage your data in a few clicks, such as Cargosnap. With the Cargosnap app, you can take photos and scan numeric references, like barcodes and container numbers, right from your phone whenever and wherever your inspection is carried out. This gives you full control over what goes on in your inspections and enables you to optimize your processes.  

Want to learn more? Book a 30 minutes personalized walk through Cargosnap and start optimizing your inspections now.