Negotiations on maritime claims when damage is sustained due to delay is not always an easy task for the cargo interests. Lacking any legislative reference in the fundamental Hague-Visby Rules (HVR), the establishment of carrier’s liability due to delay requires attention to extra-legal tools, e.g. weather reports, port congestion reports, timetables etc. In a recent case, the extensive experience of Alterlaw in maritime claims handling secured more than half of the initial claim for its client.
Under bill of lading, a shipment of 1.615 cartons of pineapples was carried within a container from Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica to Yokohama, Japan. The sea carriage also included an arranged transshipment in Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico. After its departure from the port of loading and due to foggy weather conditions, the first vessel called at port of San Antonio, Chile. It then proceeded with some delay to the port of transshipment, where the cargo remained for six days until loading to the second vessel. In the final stage of the sea carriage, the second vessel experienced delay en route to Japan due to typhoon.
Upon arrival at the port of discharge with a total delay of 8-9 days, the consignee checked the pineapples in some cartons and found all the balls molded and a lot of them discolored and softened due to ripening. The subsequent survey concluded that even though the cargo was maintained at the required temperature throughout the voyage, the damage was attributable to the prolonged transportation. As a result, the pineapples in 1.292 cartons were totally lost, while only 20% of the total cargo could be salvaged and further sold.
Negotiating the claim
The financial damage to the cargo interests was estimated at USD 24,5K. Upon indemnification, the cargo insurer was subrogated to the insured’s rights and appointed Alterlaw for handling their claim against the carrier. The latter’s position was based on the unforeseeability of the weather conditions both in Chile and en route to Japan, and their exception from liability pursuant to Art.IV(2)(q) HVR. For this reason, the carrier’s initial offer was less than 30% of the claim amount.
After discussing the merits of the claim with its client and the desirable settlement level, Alterlaw rejected the carrier’s argument on force majeure by providing proof on the foreseeability/normality of the circumstances throughout the voyage. Despite the proof on the contrary, the carrier maintained their position, but still provided slight increase in the offer’s amount. In the end, Alterlaw managed to secure around 60% of the total claim amount.
Handling the delay
Delays have always been subject to different interpretations by the parties in claims handling cases. The pandemic leading to lockdowns all over the world has brought such issues to the forefront. Alterlaw’s mentality and attention to the slightest detail achieves a settlement as close to your interests as possible. The firm is available for any of your questions.
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