Berth blunder

A ship was being fixed to transport a cargo of caustic soda.

During the negotiations, the ship owner contacted the local port agent to enquire as to the restrictions, if any, at the port. There were two berths at the port, A and B. As A was the more popular berth, the agent only provided information in respect of this berth. However, the agent was unaware that caustic soda could not be discharged. Furthermore, there was a draft restriction in place at that berth B of 6.3m but the agent failed to mention it.

Despite only being given the details for berth A, the ship was fixed to discharge at berth B, as this is where the charterer always discharged their cargo. The ship owner then officially nominated the agent for the call. The nomination advised that the ship would be berthing at “berth B” and asked the agent to confirm that there were no draft restrictions.

Unfortunately, the agent did not notice the berth information or the request for confirmation until after the ship had already loaded cargo and was en route.

When the ship arrived, she could not enter the berth as her draft was too deep. It was agreed that the berth would have to be dredged by the Port. This was carried out and completed four days later. The Port then advised that a survey would need to be carried out to make sure the dredging had been successful. There was a further delay as the Port’s survey vessel had broken down. Eventually the survey was completed and the result showed that there was more than sufficient draft. The ship finally berthed and discharged cargo nine days after arriving.
The ship was off hire for those nine days. The ship owner held the agent liable for the loss they suffered.

It was clear the agent would be held responsible for this loss because if the ship owner had been informed of the berth restrictions, they would have been able to use a smaller ship or load less cargo.

Therefore, the matter was settled for a sum in respect of the nine day off hire period. This was EUR 110,000. ITIC covered this settlement.

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