Cargo Damage Survey: Polysilicon Etch Module – LAM Technologies – Industrial Automation Equipment

In June, 2012, Peak Claims, Inc., received an assignment to survey damaged cargo which consisted of a LAM Technologies Polysilicon Etch Module.  The consignee of the cargo is an international company (trading on the NASDAQ) which based in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and “a leading designer, developer and global supplier of a broad range of analog semiconductor devices with a focus on compound III-V semiconductor-based products”, according to their website.

Peak was advised the exterior packing sustained damages through international air transfer and that damages may likely exist to the cargo itself as a result thereof.  Brief research was conducted (prior to our survey) in an effort to determine specific information about the cargo including any variances and allowances for stressful handling.

We were able to arrange a prompt survey with engineers and shipping personnel employed by the consignee, making contact within twenty four hours.


Polysilicon Etch Module – Subject Damaged Cargo

Our surveyor discovered the equipment is intended to be accurate to within 5/10,000 of an inch (nano) and the equipment is not designed to withstand reasonable impacts commonly found in transit.  Thus, our survey turned specifically to packing materials deployed for transport of the equipment.  Peak Claims discovered the cargo was not sufficiently packed for transit, and the crating used for shipment was generally insufficient to sustain the rigors of transit.

In this case, the crating deployed was loosely constructed with insufficient fasteners and no internal packing material.  Findings indicated there was in excess of eight inches (collectively) on any one side of the crating walls and actual equipment with no barrier to defend against unintentional movement.  This type of packing might function for air based transit but only when equipment is thoroughly secured, stowed, and lashed within such crating.  Here, no such banding or stabilization method was applied from the crating to the actual cargo, and the unit merely “rested” on metal shipment feet (stabilization feet for the actual equipment) during transit.  No banding or other lashing devices were found within the crate, and ultimately the cargo was free to move within the crate.

Poor Crating Fastener

Poor Crating Fastener and Placement

With findings of the cargo weighing nearly 3,200 lbs (gross), it also appeared the crating material (5/8″ plywood) was insufficent.  Furthermore, we discovered the pieces were fastened directly into another sheet (walls), thereby reducing the strength of the wood by forcing it to rely on a piece of equal or less strength.  Here, the unit shifted into a wall causing nearly the entire crating to fail.  Deployment of a lumber frame rail along the interior perimeter and using nuts/bolts (rather than screws) would have prevented this concern and some portion of the damage.

Notwithstanding all previous findings (many omitted for brevity), we noted that forklift markings on the crating did not appear to be in line with the base rails or other actual position of the base crating itself.  With assistance from the consignee’s employees, we placed the already destructed crating into an upright and square position, as it had arrived according to other employees.  We concluded the “fork here” markings on the wall of the crate were not consistent with the actual fork locations on the base of the crate, and found markings consistent with mishandling by forklift.  Normally, this may not be an applicable finding because it purports evidence into a position which could not fully be verified at the time of survey, but the presence of any engineer for such a simple matter would help to verify the condition if necessary.

Finally, we noted a “Tip N’ Tell” device and a “TiltWatch” device were present on the crating and tripped, indicating excessive movement in two directions.  These devices intend to become “tripped” when a certain amount of gravitational acceleration occurs, or when the units are “tipped” beyond a certain range.

Conclusion.  The cause and origin of this survey originates with poor packing (failure to provide adequate lashings and other securement) and is followed by the deployment of poor crating.  Without question, the crating was bound to fail from the time it was deployed because the fasteners were incorrectly placed within the unit and did not provide the stability necessary to sustain the rigors of transit.

We might apply a theory that poor handling was also involved because the tow motor driver relied upon printed “fork here” markings on the crating, but this raises the question of whether a tow motor operator is liable to visually inspect signage which should be reasonably relied upon.  A comparison might be whether a machine operator is comparatively negligent if he relies upon an “emergency stop” switch which is inoperable.  Our assignment did not include an interview of the tow-motor operator or contact with the company which provided those services.

Any remaining issues presumably handled by our principal or directly by underwriters.  Our report was finalized and transmitted within five days of receipt.

Phillip A. Crimaldi manages Cargo Damage Surveys at Peak Claims, Inc., in Denver, Colorado.  Mr. Crimaldi has over ten years of experience providing claim services for inland marine insurers, manufacturers, consignees, shippers, and transportation companies.  Please contact Peak Claims ( or via telephone at 888.816.0807 with any questions or for services related to cargo and freight losses.  

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