INTERNATIONAL Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) has recently concluded
its oldest case, dating back to 1982. Reported in the latest issue of the
Club's Claims Review, the case involved a Taiwan-based ship agent who acted
for a tanker calling at Kaohsiung.
Part of the ship's cargo of 500 metric tonnes of Toluene Dilsocyanate (TDI)
was discharged into a bonded shore tank awaiting delivery against production
of the original bill of lading. In the event, the consignee managed to
siphon off the cargo from the tank without producing the bill of lading and
without paying for the goods.
A Taiwanese bank commenced legal action
in the Kaohsiung High Court against
the tanker owner and the agent for US$560,000 - the value of the cargo. In
Taiwan, the local agent for a foreign company has joint and several
liability with the foreign company. The High Court initially found in favour
of the owner and the agent, and the bank appealed to the Supreme Court of
Over the next twenty years the case was referred back and forth between the
High Court and the Supreme Court no less than six times. Finally, at the end
of 2004, the Supreme Court of Taiwan rejected the bank's appeal. The agent
had won the case, with the assistance of ITIC, but the legal costs were in
excess of US$90,000.
Elsewhere in the Claims Review, the Club looks at how a simple documentation
error almost resulted in a violation of the US 24-hour rule. The ship agent
involved inadvertently allocated a booking reference for a container that
had been used for a previous booking.
Although the mistake was discovered, substantial costs had already been
incurred. However, had it not been detected, the consequences could have
been much worse, with the ship being fined or even refused entry into port.