As the world continues to face lockdowns due to the Coronavirus outbreak the International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) has issued advice that warns port agents of issues with receiving original bills of lading.
During this unprecedented period, port agents may be asked by consignees to deliver goods to them without providing a bill of lading in return. The consignee may claim that they have not received the bill of lading from the shipper or cannot present it to the port agent because of lockdown.
In the instance that the original bills of lading remain with the load port agent ITIC recommends that its previously published Telex Release guidance be followed. Telex release is a system whereby the original bill of lading is presented to the load port agent rather than the discharge port agent. As the name suggests it originated at a time when communication systems were less advanced than today.
Where the original bills of lading are not with the load port agent, ITIC has set out the following steps for port agents to take in order to protect themselves:
- Obtain written permission from the principal to release any cargo without receiving a bill of lading in return.
- Ask the principal if a Letter of Indemnity from the consignee is required.
- Check all freight has been paid.
The principal may ask the agent to check with the shipper (or the “to order party” if the original shipper has already sold the goods on) as to whether they have released the bill of lading to the consignee or to the party requesting the goods. This will help avoid releasing the goods to a fraudulent party. The agent should ensure they pass all relevant information to their principal for review and approval.