Problems caused by lost bills of lading

23 Ноя

В публикации рассматривается ситуация, в которой получатель груза требует его выдачи без предъявления оригинала коносамента. Отсутствие коносамента у получателя в порту назначения создает большие проблемы для судовладельца, перевозчика и подлинного грузополучателя. Наиболее распространенными причинами отсутствия коносамента у грузополучателя является задержка в доставке этого документа в порт назначения, поскольку он задерживается в банке. Иногда он бывает украден или потерян. Особенно значительные проблемы в связи с отсутствием подлинника коносамента в порту назначения груза возникают у перевозчика, поскольку перевозчик обязан выдать груз лицу, управомоченному на его получение коносаментом. Выдача груза лицу в отсутствие коносамента производится перевозчиком против выдачи гарантийного письма или иной гарантии, что позволит перевозчику заявить регрессное требование к виновному лицу, если груз окажется выданным ненадлежащему получателю. Однако при непредъявлении коносамента грузополучателем у перевозчика все равно не возникает обязанности выдать груз. Таким образом, сложилась практика получения судебного приказа о выдаче груза. Действительно, в случае хищения коносамента вообще невозможно определить надлежащего грузополучателя без такого судебного решения.

Bills of lading were devised to enable merchants to receive a receipt from the carrier as to the quality and quantity of the cargo being shipped. The receipt function remains one of the primary functions of the bill of lading. A consignee must produce the original bill of lading to obtain release of the cargo from the carrier. This enables the carrier to be sure that the goods are released to the rightful recipient. If a carrier releases cargo to a party without production of an original bill of lading — serious consequences may flow from that. The ship owner is accountable to the true holder of the bill of lading for the mis-delivered goods. In addition the carrier may find he has breached the terms of his insurance policy.

There may be a myriad of reason why an original bill of lading has not reached a discharge port. One of the most common causes are delays in the banking system.A less common reason is that the original bill of lading has been lost in transit or stolen.

For a genuine consignee, the absence of an original bill of lading which will enable goods to be collected at the discharge port, can result in an immediate breach of a sale contract and the possibility of not been able to gain possession of the goods. At the other end of the scale it can result in frustrating delays and the incurrence of storage charges.

For the carrier the absence of a bill of lading also poses a problem. They have no idea whether the individual who is claiming title in the goods has a genuine legal right to those goods or not in the absence of an original bill of lading. If they release goods without production of the original bill — they remain responsible to the original holder of the bill of lading for any conversion of the goods and any additional losses that may flow from that. On a practical level they are also left with a container on the wharf that is taking up valuable space. Under the terms of the bill of lading the carrier is usually given the right to dispose of the goods if they remain uncollected over a period of time. Commercially and financially disposing of the goods – particularly when dealing with «regular” and «known” shippers — may not be an attractive option.

Carriers will therefore consider releasing cargo without an original bill of lading if an adequate form of security is offered by the shipper or consignee who is known to them. That security is intended to give a carrier some avenue of recourse in the event that the true holder of the original bill of lading turns up and demands the cargo after the cargo is released. The carrier has acted in breach of his primary duty only to release cargo to the original bill of lading holder — so an indemnity from any third party may not be a wholly satisfactory way of dealing with the situation. A letter of indemnity or guarantee will usually be required if a shipper or consignee is to achieve release of the cargo without possession of the original bill of lading. That security will usually be issued by a first class bank.

If it is not possible to agree terms with the carrier for release of the cargo against a letter of indemnity or some other form of security (and a carrier is not obliged to accept security in the absence of an original bill of lading), it may be possible for the shipper/consignee to obtain a court order for the release of the cargo.

This type of application is rare and consideration will need to be given to the costs of seeking such an order and whether it is proportional to the value of the cargo. Following Millet J’s comments in «The Houda” [1994] it would seem that the Court has an «equitable jurisdiction” to grant the release of the cargo in situations where the bill of lading is lost. The learned judge stated that where an original bill of lading is lost and the parties have failed to agree terms for the release of the cargo, the consignee may apply to the Court for an Order which stipulates that upon the consignee tendering an adequate form and amount of security to the carrier, the carrier shall release the cargo.

Theoretically, if a bill of lading is stolen, once the carrier is put on notice of the theft there can be no subsequent bona fide recipient of the cargo. However, despite this, the carrier in many cases still be willing to release the cargo to the rightful owner against an appropriate letter of indemnity or other security. If the carrier is not willing to do so the consignee could seek assistance from the court in the form of an order for release in exchange for some form of adequate security. There is no legal obligation on a carrier to release cargo without production of a bill of lading. Whilst some carriers in some trades maybe willing to consider the release of cargo without an original bill of lading — a carrier does so with considerable risks unless he knows his customer and his business model well.

Authored by:
Jonathan Biggins
Published by:
Linda Jacques

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