The International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) warns of the dangers of allowing important information to be sent to individual email addresses with no back-up.
In a recent case, a shipowner advised its ship agent that a particular port they used regularly was no longer accepting the discharge of dangerous cargoes at certain berths. Unaware at the time, the agent accepted a booking for a cargo that contained a quantity of dangerous goods which contravened the port’s new regulations. However, after placing the booking, the shipper sent full details of the cargo which indicated the inclusion of those goods that were deemed to be dangerous. Unfortunately, the email was sent to a member of the agent’s staff who had recently left the company. His email address was not being monitored and his emails were not being forwarded – consequently, the message was missed. As neither the agent nor the shipowner were aware that the shipment contained dangerous goods, the consignment was accepted onto the ship.
It was only whilst the vessel was on passage that the owner discovered the consignment of dangerous goods and realised the problem the vessel would face at the destination port. The vessel was diverted to an alternative port where the dangerous goods were off loaded and transhipped. The shipowner then claimed US$52,000 from the agent to cover the deviation and transhipment costs – which were thought to be lower than the costs the vessel would have incurred if it had attempted to discharge the dangerous goods at the original destination.
This clearly shows the importance of keeping abreast with changing regulations and, importantly, implementing a system where communication with the agency is sufficiently robust so as to not fail when staff change roles or leave the company.
In this case, although the agency was at fault, the shipowner accepted part responsibility as the vessel’s master had accepted the cargo without objection. The claim was settled at US$25,000 which was covered by ITIC.