Risk of Fraud in Shipping Negotiations

Some charterers may not want their identity to be revealed to the owner until the negotiations have been completed. This may be for commercial reasons i.e. not allowing a competitor to know that they are buying a cargo. This situation can cause difficulties for an owner and in this situation the shipbroker will refer to his principal as a ‘first class charterer’. The use of this term can have implications as far as the broker is concerned should the charterer prove to be less than ‘first class’. It is therefore important that the shipbroker is careful when making such statements.  One of the items in the Baltic Exchange’s code of ethics (‘The Baltic Code’) is that a broker will inform the owner in writing if he has no specific or reliable knowledge of the charterer. In this situation, the owner would be advised to fix ‘subject to owners’ approval of charterer’. The broker would also advise the owner in writing to insist on freight BBB (Before Breaking Bulk); this means that the owners can retain a lien on the cargo in the event of the freight not being paid. The owner should also refuse a LOI (letter of indemnity) unless provided with a bank guarantee. BIMCO and the IMB (International Maritime Bureau) maintain registers of good and bad charterers and shipowners. One of the sanctions that the Baltic Exchange can have on owners, shipbrokers or charterers who disregard the code of ethics is to be ‘posted on the Baltic’. The name of the guilty party and the offence is put on the notice board in the Baltic Exchange as a warning for anyone (i.e. any member) contemplating conducting any business with them.