Shipper vs Agent – A case study

Dear readers, I received below message from one of the readers of this blog which I am re-posting as a case study..

This makes for interesting reading and also an eye opener for several other people who maybe in this predicament or situation and need to know these intimate details of shipping..

Shipper vs Agent - Case StudyI have given my opinion at the bottom of this post.. Like to hear yours..

Hi. I was in Dubai, UAE about 2 weeks ago. Bought a sport car from there. The car dealer found a freight forwarder agency to ship the car via 20ft container. Paid the dealer the charge of $2000. But since I was about to board a flight out of Dubai, only took shipping receipt from dealer.

Dealer promised and in fact did pay that money to the shipping agency. Yet as I found out in an email copied to me by error! That the actual charge for shipping was $1500, not 2000!

This is one point, which made me feel like a fool, but was excited about the car, so thought, no need to pursue.

Then came another point, that really I couldn’t bear: the shipping agency gave “specific” date of a certain vessel departure (5 February 2013), which was exactly what I wanted. Fast shipping as I was on way to airport!

As things transpired: that specific vessel had no scheduled date of departure on 05 Feb, but 10 Feb. He deceived me, knowing that I wanted fast shipping, and gave false info on vessel departure. So I will accept his high fee.

Container ShippingNow I been asking since 07 Feb, please send me detailed bill of shipping charges. Refused. Saying that he is dealing with the dealer not me, hence I have no privileges to see that bill of charges!

I kept requesting disclosure of bill and what the charges include, exclude. I am the shipper! have every right under all relevant laws to see and know what the details of the bill. No answer!

I asked  for bill of lading. he said, that he will send it to the local agent in my area, but not to me.

Waited for BL, nothing, till today, when local agent called me and said he has copy of it, but no original available!! I asked for copy to be sent by email, and upon viewing it, all columns where amount should be typed, was blank, redacted.

This Dubai shipping and forwarding agent is – I would think – such a lousy crook/fool!

How can he deny me the owner of the shipment, the consignee, such essential docs as: original BL, and detailed invoice of charges/payment received for my shipment.

Its a long story, but that’s the short of it. Now I do not know how to teach this %$# a lesson in ethical business dealing. The last thing I want to do is litigation and courts.

Carl , here’s my take on this :

Part 1

1) Firstly, you were given a price for shipping your cargo (Usd.2000/-) to your destination, which you agreed and paid the dealer for the service and instructed him to ship your cargo..

So you authorised him to act on your behalf which made him your agent..

2) Not sure if you got some comparative quotes to check whether the pricing is reasonable and market related, maybe you didn’t because of your travel schedule.. THIS IS A MUST and should have been done..

3) This agent used the same technique anyone in the retail industry would use, which is BUYING & SELLING.. He bought freight from a freight forwarder or a shipping line @ Usd.1500/- and sold it to you for Usd.2000/- and the balance was his profit..

I don’t think there is any regulation governing how much profit can be made like this..

Part 2

1) As far as the shipping agency or forwarders not providing you with the information on the basis of you being the shipper, I wouldn’t call it fraudulent or crookish behaviour, because there are conditions attached to it..

2) You employed the services of your agent to arrange to ship the car to you.. The agent employed the services of the shipping line directly or via a forwarder which then made him the client of the shipping line or the forwarder..

3) So even if you were the shipper on the bill of lading, if there was a contract (an email also could be considered a contract depending on what is written) between the agent and the shipping line to carry your cargo, the shipping line or the freight forwarder can take the stand to not divulge any information relating to the shipment to anyone else without the permission of the booking party..

Car packed in container4) Regarding your question of vessel departure, before the ship arrives, the date you would have been advised is called ETD = EXPECTED or ESTIMATED Time of Departure..

5) No shipping line will guarantee you that a vessel will sail on the date advised or arrive on the date advised.. They simply cannot, as there are several things that could go wrong between Point A & Point B, which no one can foresee..

6) So the time difference in sailing dates COULD BE circumstantial, but it could very well be how you mentioned it..

7) Regarding your question about the bill of lading not displaying any freight details, it is NOT mandatory for a bill of lading to display the freight charges with the exception of a few countries like Brazil where it is mandatory.. In most of the cases of day to day shipping, the bills are NOT freighted..

8) You also mention that you were not given an Original Bill of Lading.. Did you ask for an Original Bill of Lading to be issued or did you leave it all in the hands of the agent who used the services of a freight forwarder and shipping line..?? Did you give them any specific instructions with regards to the documentation..??

In my opinion and based on the facts available, even if you think that there has been unethical dealing, you will have a tough time proving it because most of what has been said above will fall under normal functions within their business framework.. 

If you feel like it, you can lodge a complaint with the Freight Forwarders association or the Shipping Lines or Agents association in your relevant country, but not sure how much that will help..

I would strongly encourage anyone who is planning on exporting or importing anything for the first time to really do their homework and do some research on the modalities involved and then start..

You can read my Beginner’s Guide to Importing or other articles like below that can assist newcomers to the business of shipping and freight..

Image of car in container does not relate to this shipment.. Its a stock image (source unknown)..

Shipper vs Agent


*** END OF POST ***

Share your views about this article

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *