В решении по упомянутому делу английский суд подтвердил норму общего права, суть которой можно сформулировать следующим образом: судовладелец (перевозчик) обязан передать владение грузом управомоченному по коносаменту (договору перевозки) лицу. Возможно, что эта норма конкурирует, либо даже противоречит Закону о морской перевозке грузов от 16 июля 1992 года. Действительно, из этого Закона можно извлечь правило, в соответствии с которым передача деливери-ордера достаточна для исполнения поставки по коносаменту, хотя в наличии груза, подлежащего выдаче, может и не быть. Следуя букве Закона, можно заключить, что достаточно выгрузить груз и выдать деливери-ордер чтобы выполнить поставку. Судебная практика требует фактического наличия груза против оригинала коносамента.
Electronic Release System (ERS) deployed at major port not discharging carrier from obligation to deliver in accordance with bill of lading
Glencore shipped three containers of cobalt briquettes from Freemantle to Antwerp.
The bill of lading named Steinweg, Glencore’s agent, as the notify party. The bill was negotiable and contained an English choice of law and an English High Court jurisdiction clause.
On arrival at Antwerp the cargo was handled under an Electronic Release System by which computer generated pin codes were issued to bill of lading holders for them to take delivery.
The ERS was a voluntary system introduced by the port. Upon presentation to it of a bill of lading and payment of freight, the carrier would send a release note with a pin number to the consignee’s designated email address. Each pin was automatically generated by the system and corresponded with a code stored in the port authority’s database.
The port authority approved two model covenants: one between the terminal operator and the shipping company or its agent and one between the shipping company and the freight forwarder.
In this case, neither model covenant was adopted or played a role.
The bill of lading in question provided:
“If this is a negotiable bill of lading, then one original bill of lading duly endorsed must be surrendered by the merchant to the carrier in exchange for the goods or a delivery order”.
In the year preceding this transaction Glencore made 69 shipments of cobalt briquettes (on average one per week) carried by MSC to Antwerp and collected by Steinweg.
On each occasion, the ERS was used successfully.
In the ordinary course, bills were presented, freight and charges paid in return for which MSC sent Steinweg a release note containing a pin code valid for a month.
In this case, when Steinweg’s hauliers presented the pin code, two of the three containers had been stolen.
MSC denied liability and argued that the provision of the release note was equivalent to a “delivery order” as stipulated in the bill of lading as a substitute for actual delivery.
Andrew Smith J rejected MSC’s argument.
He quoted Diplock J in Barclays v Customs and Excise to the effect that a bill of lading contract is “not discharged by performance until the ship owner has actually surrendered possession (that is, divested himself of all powers to control any physical dealing in the goods) to the person entitled under the terms of the contract to obtain possession of them”.
Mere discharge of the goods would therefore not constitute delivery.
On the other hand, “delivery order” was equivalent to a “ships’ delivery order” as defined in the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, 1992. An essential requirement of such order was that it contained an undertaking by the carrier to a person identified in it to deliver the goods to that person. The provision of a pin code fell short of this.
Andrew Smith J also rejected an argument that the bill of lading was varied to provide, or that it contained an implied term, that provision of the pin code would suffice for delivery.