MORE THAN ONE PRINCIPAL? WHO PAYS?
In a recent case, a ship agent in the Far East was nominated by the voyage charterer (a well known trading house) to be the agent for the disponent owner (a well known and reputable shipping company). The agent sent his list of pro forma disbursements to the disponent owner one week prior to the arrival of the ship at the port, but no response was received and no funds were remitted. The agent, feeling that he was in safe hands with such reputable companies, allowed the ship to sail before funds were received, even though he had a personal liability to pay all port costs. About two weeks after the ship had sailed, he was informed by the disponent owner that the port costs were not for his account, but that of the voyage charterer. The voyage charterer insisted that the disponent owner should pay. The agent was caught in the middle of a dispute between these two parties, and twelve months later had still not been paid. After lengthy correspondence with both parties produced no result, a threat by ITIC to arrest the ship produced payment from the head owner. The head owner recovered from the disponent owner, who presumably took his dispute with the voyage charterer to arbitration.
The above case illustrates the need to make sure that if one party (e.g. the charterer) appoints you for the account of another party (e.g. the owner) you have the owner's written confirmation that he will be responsible for your fee and disbursements.