The Claims Review - Issue 4, 1996

"As Agent Only"

Members frequently encounter problems as a result of their failure to sign-off faxes, letters, telexes etc. making it clear that they are acting not in their own personal capacity but on behalf of a named principal.

The aim of a declaration of status is to make clear to the person to whom the communication is being sent exactly what the agent's authority is and on whose behalf he acts.  If this point is not clarified there is a risk that the agent will be personally liable on the contract or will be taken to have given advice or made representations in his personal capacity and not as an agent.

The agent could also find himself personally liable to pay for goods and services ordered for his principal; the fact that everyone in the port is aware that the company acts only as an agent and not as a shipowner or charterer, will not prevent the agent from being found liable in the event that he orders supplies or services without declaring his agency status.  In the case of Maritime Stores -v- Marshall (1963) the agent instructed stevedores to order certain lashing equipment and said "send the bill to me".  The judge said the fact that Maritime Stores knew that Marshall were ship agents was "in no way determinative of the issue".  He found on the facts of the case that the contract was made between, and only between, Maritimes Stores and Marshall and that Marshall was personally liable.

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