Agent in the dock
Port agents in Hong Kong represented a container ship calling at Kwai Chung Container Terminal. Once discharge and loading operations were completed the ship sailed for her next port, Shanghai. During the call a service engineer had disembarked to return to his home town.
After the ship had departed it transpired that the agent had failed to apply for a certificate of free pratique prior to the ship’s arrival. This resulted in a criminal summons being issued. The alleged offences were failing to ensure that (in the absence of free pratique being granted) the ship proceeded to a quarantine anchorage and failing to ensure that no persons disembarked unless permitted by a health officer.
Lawyers advised that the agent was deemed to be a responsible party under local laws. They also advised that as free pratique had not been applied for, the agent was in breach of the regulations. The penalties included imprisonment, however, lawyers advised that a fine would be the likely outcome. The agent pleaded guilty whilst submitting that the error had simply been a technical failure to make the application. It was argued that free pratique would have been granted and there had been no risk to public health. The court imposed a small fine. The legal costs were more significant. ITIC reimbursed the agent.