RULE 2 - Bills of Lading

Always obtain the correct b/l

A liner agent in Denmark, having obtained an original bill of lading, authorised the release of a container of computer parts to a consignee in Russia, without noticing that the container held two different cargoes covered by two separate bills of lading.  Unfortunately the ship agent was subsequently unable to recover the misdelivered cargo and had to reimburse the shipowner the amount which he had paid to the shipper.

A regular importer who had received a container of furniture every month for 25 years presented two originals from the same set of bills of lading in exchange for the delivery of two separate boxes.  The importer was in financial difficulties and subsequently went bankrupt.  The Dutch agent had to reimburse his principal.

An English liner agent received the original ocean carrier's bill of lading, duly endorsed, from a US NVOC with an instruction to only deliver a container of electrical goods against the NVOC's bill of lading.  An employee of the agent made an entry in the computer simply recording the fact that the original ocean carrier's endorsed bill of lading had been lodged.  Another employee, relying on this entry, released the cargo.  The NVOC bill was left with the bank by the consignee.  Care should be taken to correctly enter any special instructions in a computer system.

The fact that many consignments are covered by two bills of lading, (the ocean carrier's and another issued by an NVOC) can lead to confusion, especially where the line's agent also acts as agent for the NVOC (as is often the case).

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