Liner Ship Agency Contract
When a liner has sailed away the financial reckoning is a highly complex affair. Apart from normal disbursements such as any ship incurs, there will be substantial stevedoring charges, tallying costs, transit shed rental etc.
If containers are involved there will be road/rail haulage accounts and depot handling charges also to be processed. The owner obviously wants the net result in his bank as quickly as possible and will, therefore, expect the agent’s accounts department to be just as efficient as all other parts of the agent’s organisation.
The gross amount of money collected by the agent for a liner’s call can be substantial and a prudent principal takes good care to investigate the financial stability as well as the reputation of any agent he appoints. Countries with no coast line of their own still export and import and lines carrying goods to and from such countries will want a sales organisation there.
Sometimes lines operating to countries that do have their own ports may find it convenient to have the marketing in the ‘hinterland’ carried out by a different agent from that handling the ship itself. Even in the UK where it is impossible to live more than 80 miles (130 kilometers) from the sea it was by no means unusual for the ship to be looked after by one agent and the cargo to be obtained by a ‘loading broker’.
The duties of such agents will vary from case to case; some may simply take the booking and leave all the documentation to the agent at the port. Whilst in other cases the hinterland agent will complete all the documentation often also acting as a forwarder to get the cargo to the port.
In many cases the contract between the owner and the agent for a tramp/tanker agency may be no more than one line in the telex of appointment. Generally, however, the duties of a liner agent have to be spelled out in more detail.
Furthermore, an agent has to ‘staff-up’ to handle a liner service and so needs a contract of reasonable duration in order to justify the commitment to several additional employees. There is no set pattern for a liner agency contract but the Federation of National Associations of Ship Brokers and Agents (FONASBA) has produced a printed draft in the form of their Standard Liner and General Agency Agreement.