A Turkish liner agent was requested by the receiver of 12 containers of frozen meat shipped from Denmark to deliver them without original bills of lading. The carrier's bills of lading were consigned "to order" of the Danish shipper and the receiver produced a fax from the shipper, confirming that he was the owner of the cargo and authorising delivery without the original bills of lading. The fax bore the shipper's logo, a transmission record on the top, and appeared to be signed by the same person who had signed the invoices. In view of the perishable nature of the cargo and the contents of the fax, the ship agent released the containers to the receiver. The receiver subsequently failed to pay for the meat and the fax was found to have been forged by a former employee of the Danish shipper. The carrier was liable for the shipper's loss and in turn claimed US $400,000 from his agent.
It is today a simple task for anyone with access to a scanner and a computer to duplicate headed paper and signatures, and to forge letters of authority. ITIC has recently seen a spate of release of cargoes against forged letters, which purported to come from the cargo owner (the shipper or a bank). Such documents must NOT be taken at face value. Agents must take their authority to release cargo without bills of lading only from their principals. If a letter is produced which purports to provide an authority to release without original bills of lading , the agent must ALWAYS send the letter to his principal, so that the principal has the opportunity to check with the shipper (or bank) to ensure that the letter is genuine. Cargoes are valuable - do not give them away!