Pumice problem

A port agent was appointed by the charterer and cargo owners, for the call of a ship carrying biomass (wood pellets) to a UK port.

The agent in turn appointed stevedores at the port to handle the discharge of the cargo. When instructing the stevedore, the agent failed to highlight their agency capacity.

Mid-way through discharge of the wood pellets, the hopper being used was commandeered by the port for the discharge of pumice stone from a different ship. After completion of the pumice stone discharge, the hopper was taken back to the original ship to continue the discharge of the wood pellets. Unfortunately, it appeared that the hopper had not been cleaned after discharging the pumice stone. It was found, after all the cargo had been discharged and transported to the warehouse, that the entire load of wood pellets had been contaminated by pumice stone.

The charterer held both the agent and the stevedores liable for the damage. The stevedores attempted to hold the agent responsible due to their failure to make it known to them that they were an agent. However, ITIC argued that this ultimately made no difference because even if the cargo owner could only claim against the agent, the agent could claim from the stevedore in any event.

Ultimately the claim was settled by the stevedore for GB£ 220,000. The agent’s legal costs were covered by ITIC.

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