Physical limits

A ship agent in the Far East was approached by an owner asking for details of the maximum draft at a jetty at the port. The person in the agent’s office who usually dealt with calls at the jetty had recently left the agent’s employment. Another employee advised the owner that the draft was 10.5 metres. However, dredging work in the vicinity of the jetty meant that the maximum draft had been reduced by the port authorities from 10.5 metres to 9.5 metres. All port users (including the agent) had been advised of this revision. Due to the absence of the employee who was familiar with the jetty, the owner was advised of the old draft.

The ship owner calculated the rotation of the several ports at which the ship would discharge based on the incorrect information provided by the agent. The first discharge was to be at the jetty at the agent’s port, but the ship could not discharge because she had a draft of 9.9 metres. As a result, the owner was forced to perform a ship-to-ship transfer of part of her cargo. The owner incurred additional expenses of US$ 30,000 and claimed reimbursement from the agent.

This is not the only occasion on which the absence of a key member of staff has led to this type of claim. Some years ago, an agent received a request to confirm the ship was suitable to call at a port situated a short way down the coast from the agent’s office. The employee who dealt with that port had just gone on leave. A junior member of staff checked the draft restrictions carefully and confirmed the ship’s suitability to the owners. Unfortunately, the employee overlooked the need to use a lock to enter the port and the ship was too long.

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