• Quantity, weights and packing



    Tolerance to ship 3% more or less than the contracted weight. Applicable to both ECF and GCA. The intention is not to frustrate shipment if on arrival in port five bags are missing out of five hundred. But the tolerance applies only if the cause is beyond the sellers control. If buyers suspect deliberate manipulation they may lodge a claim.

    Weights at shipment 

    Weight franchise of 0.5% on coffee sold net shipped weight in ECC and E.FCA.CC. Any weight loss on arrival in excess of 0.5% is to be refunded by the seller. Until the end of 1997 the tolerance was 1%. The present figure is a direct consequence of the growth in bulk shipments, in the sense that there should hardly be any weight variation if coffee is correctly shipped in lined and sealed containers. Shippers of bagged coffee often include a small tolerance (excess weight) per bag to avoid claims. GCA standard contracts make no provision for a weight franchise unless this is specifically agreed at the time of concluding the transaction, in which case it must be explicitly stated in the contract.

    Independent evidence of weight. The shipping weight shall be established at the time and place of shipment, or at the time and place of stuffing if the coffee is stuffed into the shipment containers at an inland location. In either case, sellers shall provide independent evidence of weight. This stipulation in both ECC and E.FCA.CC provides buyers with some independent evidence that a container for which the bill of lading or waybill states said to contain in fact does hold a certain amount of coffee. This does not alter the shipper's responsibility in any way unless the parties agree that shipping weights shall be final (together with the procedure and conditions that shall apply). GCA does not make this stipulation. The requirement to provide independent evidence of shipping weights applies equally to coffee sold delivered weights.

    Supervision by buyer's representatives (independent weighers). Buyers can demand this under both ECC and GCA provided they give due notice and pay the costs. The seller is obliged to provide the certificate together with the shipping documents but the buyer cannot withhold payment if the seller does not provide it. It is after all possible that the supervising weigher failed to hand the certificate to the exporter, or omitted to attend the weighing when asked to do so.

    Weights on arrival (landed weights)

    Establishment of arrival weights. ECC and E.FCA.CC require that weighing (and sampling) take place no later than 14 calendar days (15 for GCA) after discharge at the final port of destination or, in case of unforeseen complications, from the date the goods become available for weighing. Under both ECC/E.FCA.CC and GCA shippers have the right to appoint supervisors at their expense.

    ECC and E.FCA.CC stipulate that on arrival containers (bagged and bulk) may be on-carried to an inland destination and weighed there provided they are on-carried not later than 14 calendar days from the date of final discharge at the port of destination, and provided weighing (and sampling) take place under independent supervision, at buyers expense, not later than 7calendar days after arrival at the inland destination. The point of containerization is to minimize handling and the object of this clause is to permit receivers to bring the coffee without unnecessary handling as near to its final destination as possible, for example a roasting plant. (If coffee is weighed at a roasting plant then such weights may also be called factory weights.) GCA provides that coffee in bags is to be weighed either within 15 days of availability at port of destination (landed weights), or within 15 days of date of tender at buyers plant (plant weights). Coffee in bulk is to be weighed during unloading within 21days of availability at final destination, or 21 days after all United States Government clearances have been received (silo weights).

    But the GCA approach is quite different from that of the ECF contracts in that it requires that the actual transaction contract state when, where, how and by whom, coffee is to be weighed for settlement purposes, that is, weighing responsibilities including liability for costs must be specified at the time of contract. If coffee is removed from the stipulated place of weighing or the time limits expire before the weighing takes place, then the net shipped weight will stand.


    ECC and E.FCA.CC state that the coffee shall be packed in sound uniform natural fibre bags suitable for export and in conformity with the legal requirements for food packaging materials and waste management within the European Union valid at the time of conclusion of the contract. This is important and exporters must know what types and quality of bags are acceptable, not only in the European Union but also in other countries.

    Be careful not to confuse port of destination with country of destination as the two may not always be the same. To read the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Disposal Directive go to www.europa.eu.int (official publications, EUR-Lex). See also the Draft Code of Hygienic Practice for the Transport of Foodstuffs of the Codex Alimentarius Commission at www.codexalimentarius.net and 12.07 Quality Control.

    GCA stipulates that coffee bags shall be made of sisal, henequen, jute, burlap or similar woven material, without any inner lining or outer covering. Bulk coffee shall be in a bulk container liner. Depending on the contract so-called super sacks (jumbo bags) made of synthetic fibre may also be used. Soluble coffee is commonly shipped in cardboard cartons with a plastic liner. All forms of packaging must conform to food grade packaging standards at the country of destination.

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