Expiry dates of provisions and safety equipment


A report detailing the supply of out of date provisions. Similar lessons learned can be applied to safety gear with a shelf life or expiry date.

What the Reporter told us:

Upon loading provisions at Port A, the ship’s crew discovered that a number of items had surpassed their expiry date.

The company conducted their own investigation and stated that expired provisions could lead to health problems, food poisoning and the risk of illness. They stated the resultant cause was improper control and/or standards of the supplier.

Expired or improperly maintained foods are a potential cause for health problems onboard. During delivery, strict preventive measures should be implemented at all times. The handling, storage, preparation and serving of provisions and food must be in accordance with the company’s procedures and instructions.

Upon delivery and prior to storage in the provision rooms, the expiration dates of the provisions should be verified.

Expired provisions and those that expire within a short period must be returned to the supplier. If the ship has already sailed from the port, the company should be notified with necessary evidence (photos) as soon as possible.

Cooks and galley personnel must ensure that no expired foods are consumed. The consumption of foods should be arranged so as to prioritise items that have the earliest expiration date. The ‘first in – first out’ principle of stock rotation should be observed in the storage of all provisions.

CHIRP Comment

The CHIRP Maritime Advisory Board discussed this report and expanded upon some of the comments from the company. Some companies have procedures in place where the master is provided with cash to pay for provisions and in this case the master often has a free rein to determine which chandler is utilised. The danger with this is that, inevitably, there is a cost versus quality argument – cheaper is not always better.

Other companies may well have their own list of preferred chandlers for various ports. If this is the case, those chandlers can be audited by the company to ensure that standards and expectations are maintained. Similarly, any complaints about expired provisions being delivered, can immediately be addressed by the company and acted upon by the chandler.

Expired provisions can, as the report states, lead to health issues. Items labelled “use by” refer to products which may perish fairly quickly – dairy products, salads, fruit, fresh fish and meats are all examples. Best before dates may often be found on frozen products, dry and canned goods. Ordering in sensible quantities, and utilisation of good stock rotation can all help in ensuring that standards are maintained and that  all  foodstuffs are kept in date. In addition, it should be noted that the temperature at which provisions are loaded is equally important from a health and safety perspective. Frozen provisions should not be accepted if the product is not frozen, and chilled products should be delivered between 0°C and +5°C. Finally, cross contamination between out of date or defrosted frozen and chilled products should be avoided.

A well fed and healthy crew is, in general, a happy crew.

As a general lesson, the Board also mentioned that the delivery of expired goods or those close to expiry is not confined to provisions. It may be equally applicable to medical stores, pyrotechnics, or indeed any safety equipment with an expiry date. It is worth noting that grinding discs may also have a use by date.