Who pays the stevedores?

A port agent in the Middle East appointed stevedores on behalf of the shipowner. It was only when he sent the invoice to the shipowner that the agent discovered that the cargo had been booked on a “free out” basis (i.e. the discharging costs were for the consignee's account). The shipowner had never asked or authorised the port agent to appoint stevedores. The stevedores, who had relied on the agent's apparent authority to appoint them on behalf of the shipowner, threatened to arrest the ship on its next call at the port. The consignee could not be traced and the agent had to pay the stevedores' bill himself.

It is important that agents are clear about what they are being employed to do. They should not assume that they have authority to order services for their principals.

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