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08 December 2010
On October 19 2010 Antwerp Commercial Court issued a decision on detention charges and demurrages on containers that is likely to cause concern.
A non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) operator agreed to carry full container load consignments of wood from Brazil to Antwerp in Belgium. In Brazil, the NVOCC operator received the loaded containers that it had put at the shipper's disposal. At the destination it delivered the same loaded containers to the consignee. In its bills of lading the NVOCC operator named a US firm, P, as the consignee and a German firm, F, as the notify party.
The NVOCC operator concluded contracts for sea carriage with an ocean carrier, which issued the ocean bills of lading. The goods were carried on different vessels from Brazil to Antwerp. In Antwerp, the ocean bills of lading were presented by the local receiving agent, which had been appointed by the NVOCC operator and mentioned in the ocean bills of lading as the consignee.
The ocean carrier repeatedly charged detention charges and demurrage for the containers and addressed its invoices to the receiving agent, which in turn charged the costs to F, as it was the notify party on the NVOCC bill of lading.
Despite being duly informed, F repeatedly failed to collect the containers and refused to pay the invoices, maintaining that its principal - that is, P - should pay, as it was the consignee on the NVOCC bill of lading.
The NVOCC operator and its receiving agent finally brought a claim before Antwerp Commercial Court against P and F for payment of detention charges and container demurrage.
The court dismissed the demurrage and detention claim and made the following points:
The judgment states that if a carrier wishes to claim demurrage and detention charges for containers placed at the cargo interests' disposal for the purposes of carriage, in practice it must not only inform the consignee of applicable time limits, but must also notify the debtor or consignee on expiry of the allotted period. It remains to be seen whether and to what extent the judgment will influence future demurrage and detention claims, but it has not been appealed.
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