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Project cargo fraud leads to IMB warning to expect more to come

A SHIPPER of high value project cargo from the Black Sea bound for a south east Asian port was the victim of charter party fraud and the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has issued a warning, reports HLPFI (Heavy Lift & Project Forwarding International) magazine.

Project cargo fraud leads to IMB warning to expect more to come
29 April 2014 - 23:13

Project cargo fraud leads to IMB warning to expect more to come

A SHIPPER of high value project cargo from the Black Sea bound for a south east Asian port was the victim of charter party fraud and the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has issued a warning, reports HLPFI (Heavy Lift & Project Forwarding International) magazine.

The warning comes after a case, which is ongoing, where a voyage charterer received payment for freight, but failed to pass it on to the shipowner, who subsequently refused to deliver the cargo to the discharge port.

Freight in full was paid to the charterer, a company allegedly operating from the Netherlands, but the charterer failed in turn to pay the shipowner, says the IMB. 

The IMB said the charterer and the broker can no longer be contacted and the shipowner is refusing to proceed any further until the money for the freight is received.

According to the shipowner, the bill of lading was released by the local port agents following an email purportedly from the shipowner. The cargo owner now has no realistic chance of taking delivery of the shipment.

The IMB was asked to investigate and found no trading record of the charterer. Their enquiries revealed that a long chain of brokers and intermediaries were involved.

In the meantime, the charterer managed to convince the shipowner that the freight money was forthcoming and to begin the voyage. They did this by sending a document that apparently confirmed the freight had been remitted by the charterer.

However no money arrived after a few days and the owner contacted the Cypriot bank that supposedly issued the documents to check its whereabouts. The owner was told no such remittance had been made and the bank later confirmed the document was a fake.

The IMB says it is not unusual for a shipowner to accept such a document as proof the freight money is on its way, as the cost of delaying the voyage until payment is actually received is not practical in the real world of shipping.

This latest case highlights the risks of entering into transactions that involve many brokers and intermediaries who have not been individually checked before fixture negotiations begin.

It is not an isolated incident. The IMB also notes previous cases where the correspondence between principals in a charter party transaction had been intercepted by fraudsters, who then send a message allegedly from the shipowner requesting that payment for freight be made to a different bank account.

As the number of charterers and owners abandoning their responsibilities increase, the IMB highlights the role of its Chartering Experience Programme.

IMB claims that this service provides members with timely information needed in order to make informed decisions, and helps reduce the risk of dealing with companies with poor records, habitual defaulters or already have debts.

"As seen in the majority of cases, once a chartering failure has occurred the options facing those affected are few and invariably expensive," the IMB warns.

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