Ship agents are increasingly faced with attempts to obtain delivery of cargo using forged emails, according to the International Transport Intermediaries Club
Writing in the latest edition of its annual publication, The Intermediary, ITIC indicated that fraud in shipping is endemic, cargoes are valuable, and it has never been easier to forge documents, electronic communications
, bills of lading, and other documents. Carriers and their agents must be vigilant and take necessary steps to avoid becoming unnecessarily involved in costly claims for damages.
ITIC notes that misrelease of valuable cargo is a major factor in claims by principals against their agents, and explains that carelessness in dealing with telex releases has contributed to these losses. ‘Telex release’ is the industry term for the release of cargo at one port when the original bill of lading has been surrendered at another. Today, despite its name, the telex release is almost always made by email.
ITIC says there are two main problems with telex releases. First, they are often poorly worded and dealt with in a careless manner. The second problem with telex releases, says ITIC, results from email fraud. In its Guidelines for the Release of Cargo, ITIC recommends that agents check the authenticity of messages from other agents to release cargo. ITIC has recently been notified of several claims involving telex release by faked emails. These are emails received by discharge port agents that have been manipulated to appear as though they have originated from the load port agent, and authorize release of cargoes and confirm that freight has been received when it has not.
ITIC advises agents asked to perform a telex release to first obtain written authority from their principal. And it concludes that telex releases must never be accepted at face value.