The proliferation of communication by e-mail has made our lives both easier and more difficult.  It is now easier and cheaper than ever to communicate with business partners in all parts of the world, but the “immediate” nature of e-mail correspondence also makes it easier to make mistakes.  Members who are careful to draw attention to the existence of their standard trading conditions by means of footnotes on their headed paper, faxes and invoices, do not always take the same care when sending e-mails.  As more and more contracts (such as cargo bookings) are now made by e-mail, the Club is often faced with situations where it is difficult to prove that the Member’s standard trading conditions have been incorporated at the time the contract was made.  E-mails also frequently get sent to the wrong recipient, and should therefore contain a “confidentiality” notice, making it clear that the message is only intended for the named recipient and that the receiver is prohibited from using the information contained in it.

The Club has seen several claims which have resulted from important communications being sent to unmonitored personal e-mail boxes.  An instruction not to release cargo was sent to the personal e-mail box of a ship agency employee who was away from the office because of sudden illness.  The cargo was released and the ship agent is facing a claim.  Could this happen to you?

We suggest that you make sure that both absent employees’ mailboxes are monitored and that urgent messages are sent by fax as well as by e-mail.  Business e-mails should be clear and contain the necessary company information, details of trading terms and a confidentiality notice.  We are sure that large amounts of time are wasted each day trying to figure out who e-mails are from and who the intended recipients are, and it would greatly assist us, if the identity of the recipient of an e-mail message was always clear.

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