TT Talk - Recovery of container detention charges by delivery agents

AIison Cook of the Club's Sydney office helpfully draws readers' attention to a problem faced by the local transport operators relating to recovery of container detention charges: liabilities arising from the customer's use of the container. This then gives the member a contractual basis upon which to pursue a recovery if charges are incurred through the customer's delay.

"We have noticed a recent increase in the number of instances of container detention charges from shipping lines being incurred by our Australian forwarding members. This is where containers are being detained by consignee customers for longer than the free period allowed by the lines. A number of members have expressed an interest in how they might better protect their businesses from incurring these charges when really they have no control over the boxes once they are delivered to their customers.

The problem often encountered is that the member is named as consignee on the ocean bill of lading and so becomes contractually liable for charges to the shipping line under that bill. However, as far as the contract of carriage with the cargo interests is concerned the member acts as an agent only for his (foreign) principal who issues the house bill of lading. Not being a party to the house bill of lading contract means that the member will not be able to rely upon the contractual rights available in it, such as, - and typically stated in most bills of lading - the right to recover container detention charges.

We recommend that members insert a clause into the arrival documentation to the effect that the container is released into the customer's care on the basis that the customer agrees to indemnify the member for any fees, charges and other

The Club's members who are interested may like to contact our Sydney office for a full version of the recommended wording for the arrival notice."