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Total avocado loss
20 January 2021

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.

The facts

Under a contract of carriage, 20 pallets of avocado (21,177 kg in total) were carried from Mexico to France in a period of 32 days. The carriage consisted of an initial road leg within Mexico, sea carriage from the port of Altamira, Mexico to the port of Antwerp, Belgium, and lastly an international road leg from Belgium to France. It should be noted that the initial road and sea legs were performed by the same carrier, while the last road leg, which lasted for less than a day, was performed by another. Upon delivery to the final consignee in France, it was discovered that the cargo was damaged and immediately a survey on the cargo was conducted.

According to the survey, the cause of damage was identified in the extremely high oxygen level (around four times higher than requested), the extremely low CO2 level (around four times lower than requested), and the low humidity level in the container for most of the carriage. While the total value of the cargo was estimated at EUR 52K, the consignee was only able to earn EUR 637,89 as salvage profit. Therefore, the cargo interests notified the carrier for the total damage and appointed Alterlaw to proceed with the negotiations.

The negotiation

Due to the total damage of the cargo and the client’s significant financial loss threatening them even with bankruptcy, the timely settlement of the claim was crucial. The carrier denied any liability for additional costs (lawyer costs and transport charges) based on their Terms & Conditions, but still offered less than 35% of the cargo’s value for amicable settlement.
Alterlaw provided all necessary documentation to prove that this offer was unreasonable, given that the extreme fluctuations of the oxygen and the carbon dioxide in transit had a devastating effect on the cargo, and thus the liability of the carrier was totally involved. Despite slightly increasing the initial offer, the carrier had no choice in the end but to offer approximately 95% of the total damage and cargo value. Taking its client’s special circumstances into consideration, Alterlaw successfully settled the claim within four months.

Alterlaw’s approach

Ordinarily, carriers handle simultaneously multiple cases. This might adversely affect the progress of your claim by postponing its amicable settlement at a later stage, but also your own course of business and ability to trade. Alterlaw is well aware of how such negotiations are developed. With its “no nonsense” and “hands-on” mentality, Alterlaw manages to track the claim’s progress at every stage and to achieve a timely settlement, always considering your special needs and circumstances. You are welcome to contact Alterlaw for any question regarding your claims.

About the authors

Nurlan Agayev

Nurlan Agayev


Nurlan Agayev is specialist op het gebied van claims, incasso en contracten bij Alterlaw.
Themistoklis Karvounidis

Themistoklis Karvounidis


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