Helpdesk at ITIC
In addition to the comprehensive insurance provided by the Club, all Members have access to free advice and guidance from the Club’s “Helpdesk”. The staff of ITIM, ITIC’s management company, have all had industry experience and are trained to provide assistance across a wide range of potential problems.
If the Member’s enquiry is unusual or requires specialist assistance, and ITIM’s in-house team are unable to provide an answer, then a wide network of sources of information can immediately be called upon to assist. As a mutual existing for the benefit of its Members the Club will, in appropriate cases, commission legal and other opinions on industry developments, forthcoming legislation and so-forth in order to assist the Members.
The following are examples of the areas in which the Club regularly provides assistance:
ITIC provides a full debt collection service to Members who purchase Rule 10 (“additional legal expenses insurance and debt collection”) cover. This insurance covers the often heavy costs of investigating and pursuing debtors. Members do not face any extra or hidden expenses if litigation proves necessary. As a result of the provision of this service, the Club has acquired considerable knowledge of shipowners, charterers, operators and others who have failed to pay its Members. ITIC is not a formal credit reference agency but the information it possesses can be of considerable value. The Club is careful to preserve the commercial confidentiality of individual Members who have sought assistance, but otherwise makes its knowledge freely available to Members. If a Member is proposing to do business with a principal for the first time, a call to the Club to see if it has any relevant information is recommended.
Standard Trading Conditions and Other Contracts
A large number of Members carry on their business under the terms and conditions of trade associations such as the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, the Rotterdam Shipbrokers Association and the British International Freight Association. The staff of ITIM have frequently to consider the application of the terms of these agreements and common amendments to them, when handling claims and can, therefore, provide advice on the practical effect of their various clauses. Many of the agreements used in different countries contain similar provisions and ITIC’s international perspective can often be helpful.
A notable example of a standard form contract in wide international use is the BIMCO “SHIPMAN 98” contract. The Club has had extensive experience of the workings of this agreement, as well as its predecessors, and other similar forms such as “CREWMAN”. A clause for use with SHIPMAN was recently suggested by the Club in relation to ship managers’ responsibilities for Year 2000 problems. It is not always possible for Members to trade on their standard terms and conditions and ship managers and liner agents are frequently presented with their principals’ contract for signature. There is naturally a concern that these agreements contain provisions which are particularly onerous for the manager or agent.
The Club can provide guidance on these agreements and often suggest alternative wordings which may assist with negotiating a more balanced agreement.
ITIC frequently reviews other types of documents for its Members. Shipbrokers are increasingly asked to enter into confidentiality agreements and the Club is able to offer guidance with the provisions of these. An aspect of its work which has proved popular is the Club’s review of the wording of ship valuations. ITIC has helped Members engaged in a whole range of activities, including surveyors and average adjusters, to draft disclaimers and other contractual provisions which can help reduce the risk of claims.
Sanctions and Trade Embargoes
It is a reflection of the world’s political uncertainties that the Club has been so extensively involved in advising upon the extent and affect of United Nations and national government economic sanctions. In the last few years these have been imposed, varied and lifted in relation to Libya, Iraq and Yugoslavia. If Members are concerned about the legality of their involvement in a proposed transaction they can contact the Club for assistance.
Rules and Regulations
There is a whole range of laws and rules and regulations that may affect Members’ businesses and upon which assistance can be given. The member states of the European Community have implemented the Commercial Agency Directive in a variety of ways and this has directly affected the rights of ITIC Members on issues such as compensation upon the termination of their agency agreements. The affects of the ISM Code on ship managers was the subject of both a circular from the Club and a great deal of individual advice to Members. These are simply two examples of the range of advice on rules and regulations that can be obtained from the Club.
ITIC’s Members are often caught up in legal disputes between their principals without being a recipient of a claim themselves. The Club is always pleased to assist Members who have received demands for documents or requests to give evidence, whether from their principals’ lawyers or in the form of a formal court subpoena. The Club is occasionally asked to advise on the meaning of injunctions and other court orders serve upon its Members. In these cases the parties’ lawyers may often attempt to give conflicting instructions to a Member. ITIC can, however, provide an experienced and independent source of guidance on the Member’s position which is freely and immediately available.
The examples referred to in this article are simply a few from the wide range of subjects on which the Club’s helpdesk is able to assist its Members. This assistance can be provided both directly from ITIM’s London office and through the Club’s established worldwide network of correspondents.