Brokers liable for bunkers

A chartering broker arranged a fixture for a voyage from the Black Sea to Singapore.

The recap showed the identity of both the registered owners and the disponent owner with whom the negotiations had been concluded.

Disponent owners requested brokers to arrange to purchase bunkers and an order was placed with a physical supplier. The cost of the bunkers was USD 777,278. However, instead of ordering the bunkers on behalf of the disponent owners they mistakenly ordered them on behalf of the registered owner taking the name from the recap.

The bunkers were duly supplied and the ship signed for them. The physical supplier invoiced the registered owners c/o brokers for the cost of the bunkers supplied. The invoice was sent to the disponent owners but when payment was due they did not pay.

On chasing for payment the disponent owner replied ‘regarding the payment for bunkers, I have passed to the financial side and they should be arranging payment, the delay is due to our Company currently being audited and will be ending in the coming weeks’. Further requests for payment met with similar response ’getting information from financial side and will update soonest’.

Physical suppliers instructed lawyers to collect the monies owed.

When lawyers approached the registered owners they were told that the registered owners had never given any instructions for the purchase of the bunkers and that the responsible party should have been the disponent owners. If the bunkers had been purchased in their name then this was a misrepresentation on the part of the party who had provided the information to the bunker supplier.

Lawyers therefore turned their attention to the brokers saying they were responsible for breach of warranty of authority. There was no prospect of going after the vessel and the brokers entered a settlement with the bunker suppliers.

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