Invoicing Error Lays Massive Bill on Shipbroker
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Photo: ITIC

ITIC revealed how an invoicing error led to a shipbroker being asked to foot the bill for a bunker supply amounting to more than three-quarters of a million dollars.

In its latest Claims Review, ITIC cites the case of a chartering broker which arranged a fixture for a voyage from the Black Sea to Singapore. The recap showed the identity of both the registered owner and the disponent owner with whom the negotiations had been concluded.

The disponent owner asked the broker to arrange the purchase of bunkers, and an order was placed with a supplier. The cost of the bunkers was $777,278. But instead of ordering the bunkers on behalf of the disponent owner, the broker mistakenly ordered them on the registered owner’s behalf, taking the name from the recap.

The bunkers were duly supplied and the ship signed for them. The bunker supplier invoiced the registered owner, care of the broker, for the cost of the bunkers. The invoice was sent to the disponent owner but was not paid when due. When chased for payment, the disponent owner replied, “Regarding the payment for bunkers, I have passed to the financial side and they should be arranging payment, the delay is due to our company currently being audited and will be ending in the coming weeks.”

When further requests for payment met with a similar response, the bunker suppliers instructed lawyers to collect the amount owed. When lawyers approached the registered owner they were told that the registered owner had never given any instructions for the purchase of the bunkers and that the responsible party should have been the disponent owner. If the bunkers had been purchased in the name of the registered owner, this was a misrepresentation on the part of the party which had provided the information to the bunker supplier.

Lawyers therefore turned their attention to the broker, claiming that it was responsible for breach of warranty of authority. There was no prospect of going after the vessel and the brokers entered a settlement with the bunker suppliers.

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