Release of container of TV sets without original B/L
The German agent of a Far Eastern shipping line took delivery of four 40 foot containers, each holding 368 TV sets. Each container was covered by a separate B/L which showed 'C' as the shipper and consignee "To Order" of the shipper. 'C' was a regular shipper of the line.
After arrival, the forwarder who routinely arranged to collect 'C's' shipments asked for delivery of the four containers. The forwarder presented an original B/L for one container and the shipper handed two more originals to the line's agents in Hong Kong. The German agent erroneously delivered all four containers to the forwarder.
Some months later, a company in Singapore presented all three original Bs/L for the fourth container to the carrier with delivery instructions. It then transpired that this company had entered into sale contracts for all four containers with the manufacturers of the TV sets and in turn entered into sale contracts with shipper 'C'. Having paid the manufacturers for the four containers, the purchaser had then obtained four "switch" Bs/L from the carrier showing 'C' only paid for three containers and another buyer had therefore been found for the fourth container.
The original purchasers commenced legal proceedings against the carrier for the value of the goods in the fourth container. The carrier settled their claim and immediately debited their German agent's account for the invoice value of US$73,600.
In spite of exhaustive enquiries and the appointment of lawyers in Hong Kong, Austria and Poland (where all four containers were eventually delivered), the Club was unable to identify the guilty party. The multi-national nature of the transactions, the lack of documentary evidence and the fact that investigations of an Austrian middleman showed him to be a "man of straw" made it impossible to proceed against any of the parties. The Club settled the agent's claim in full, less the deductible. Legal costs paid by the Club amounted of US$11,600.