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Pre-appointment due diligence for ship agents
Pre-appointment Due Diligence
1. What do you know about the vessel?
i. Proceed with caution if the vessel is coming into port with mechanical problems. This could lead to undue delays in port (particularly if the owner is in financial difficulty) and liabilities to accrue for a ship agent, in terms of port dues and other related expenses.
ii. Establish which P&I Club the ship is entered with. Is it insured with a Club from the International Group? In the event of a problem, you will want the assurance that the vessel is insured by a quality insurer.
iii. Consider subscribing to the Lloyd’s List Intelligence website, which provides a wealth of information in relation to the world’s shipping fleet, their owners, insurers, vessel movements, in addition to other useful information.
2. What do you know about the principal?
i. Make sure you know who your principal is. Are they the Owner or Charterer?
ii. If they are the Charterer, establish who the Beneficial Owner and Registered Owner are.
iii. If you are being appointed by the Charterer, establish whether an Owner’s Protecting Agent is also being appointed. If not, be aware that you will be deemed to be the agent for the vessel, with all the associated liabilities that this implies.
iv. If the appointing party has signed off “as agent”, then ask them who they are acting for, and who will be responsible for paying the disbursement account. If they refuse to disclose this information, then proceed with extreme caution.
v. Are there any indications that your principal is in financial difficulty? A quick search of the internet and the industry press can establish this very easily. If they owe other parties money then you as agent could become involved in an arrest. A check with ITIC at this stage may reveal that ITIC is collecting debts from the principal for other Members.
3. How will you be paid?
i. Establish from the outset who will be paying for your services and the services of the third parties you will be appointing on their behalf (who you also have a responsibility to protect).
ii. When receiving an appointment from a new party, always try and get as much prefunding as possible, and preferably 100%.
4. Don’t be afraid the decline an appointment!
If after undertaking the above process there is something that concerns you, do not be afraid to walk away. Accepting an appointment for a vessel that is experiencing problems, or for a principal that is in financial difficulty, could not only cost you a lot of money, but can also cost you a huge amount of time, which could be better spent assisting quality principals.
If you are ever concerned about a new agency appointment, or you have an unusual situation you would like to discuss, then remember, ITIC are always here to help.