Right number, wrong box
ITIC received notice of a claim faced by a liner agent at an African port. The agent had arranged for cargo to be delivered to an inland destination in a forty foot container leased by his principal. In due course a forty foot container, owned by the same leasing company and bearing the same container number, was returned to the port. It was not until the container arrived at a depot in the United States some months later that it was noted that the container number engraved on a metal plate on top of the container was different to the number stencilled on the sides. The container was one which had been leased to another shipping line and had been missing since it had been delivered to the same inland destination. The consignee had apparently (for reasons of his own) stencilled a different number on it. The fact that the box which had disappeared was brand new could have been the reason for the switch. The principal received a claim from the leasing company for the replacement value of the missing container, and a further claim from the other shipping line for per diem leasing costs. The principal held the agent liable for both these claims.
The ship agent’s obligation is to exercise reasonable skill and care in performing the agency services and, if he fulfils this obligation, he is not liable for losses sustained by the principal. It was the agent’s job to make sure that his principal's leased container was returned to the port undamaged. To all appearances the box had been returned, and the agent had fulfilled his duty to act with reasonable skill and care.The principal’s claim was rejected by the Club with the suggestion that the shipping line recover its losses from its customer.