Thanks to the readers of this blog who ask some stimulating questions like the title of this post..
This is a very contentious issue between the shipping lines and the importers of the cargo and in my opinion, will continue to remain so.. To understand this further, i would like you to cast your mind (always wanted to say that) to my previous article regarding Part 1 of a Bill of Lading.. Below is what i wrote about who a consignee and notify are in the bill of lading :
Consignee – is the name and address details of the consignee who is receiving the cargo or is the actual buyer.. This may or may not be the actual owner or recipient of the cargo as it could be a bank or trader or forwarder depending on the type of bill of lading that is issue.. However, being named as the consignee on the bill of lading also comes with the risk and responsibility of being held accountable for many issues such as non-clearance of cargoes, late clearance, claims etc..
Notify – is the name and address details of the person who generally should be notified of the arrival of the cargo.. Depending on the bill of lading that is issued this could be the actual buyer or receiver of the goods, clearing and forwarding agent or the trader.. Generally the notice of cargo arrival is to be sent to this notify party..
The shipping lines/agents at a port of discharge generally follow the above information provided by the shipper and send out Arrival Notifications to the Consignee and/or Notify.. For all technical purposes, the Consignee wields more power than the Notify as the Consignee is whom the shipment is consigned to (irrespective of whether its a person, company, or a bank).. Notify party is merely a party to whom the details of the arrival of the cargo must be communicated to..
The question here is “Is a shipping line liable for any costs if they don’t send the arrival notification for import cargo..??”
If you ask a shipping line, they will clearly and categorically say NO, they are not liable.. What is the basis of their rejection of liability..??
Well to start with, if you look at the front of the bill of lading just next to the Notify Party, it says some words (depending on the line used) like
“ Carrier not liable for failure to notify “ or “ See Clause 20 “..
This clause number refers to the clause on the reverse of the bill of lading (Terms and Conditions).. If you look there you might find a clause like
20. Notification and Delivery
(1) Any failure to give notification of the arrival of the goods shall not involve the Carrier in any liability nor relieve the Merchant of any obligation hereunder.
22. Notification and Delivery
22.1 Any mentioning in this bill of lading of parties to be notified of the arrival of the Goods is solely for information of the Carrier. Failure to give such notification shall not involve the Carrier in any liability nor relieve the Merchant of any obligation hereunder.
What the carrier is saying is that they are NOT obligated to send an arrival notification to the consignee/notify about the arrival of their cargo.. They do it as a service to the customer and it is also the responsibility of the customer (consignee/notify) to track and follow up on their shipment..
Almost 100% of the lines send out Arrival Notifications to the customers as a service, but none will accept any liability for NOT sending it out.. UNLESS there is a huge commercial implication for the line if they dont accept liability..
Have you had any experience or dispute with this..?? Please do share if you have had this experience (whether good or bad) so everyone can learn..
PS : i have mentioned above about the “front” and “reverse” of the bill of lading.. This i have used in the context of how we speak about the bill of lading on a day to day basis.. In reality, Page 1 of a bill of lading is what is usually called the “reverse” of the bill of lading where the Terms and Conditions are printed.. Check it out..