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12 October 2014

In the course of any given day, we arrange for any number of shipments to be delivered to clients. Cargo that has arrived by sea or by air has to be uplifted from the receivers’ depot and delivered in a timely manner - preferably before the onset of storage.

Many people don’t really have an appreciation of the work or time that is involved, nor are they aware of where responsibility and liability starts and finishes.

1.The Legal stuff  
Once freight has arrived at a freight depot, is Customs and MPI cleared and is ready for delivery to the client, Marine Insurance cover and the terms of Bills of Lading or Air Way Bills usually cease. From this point, the Carriage of Goods Act (1979) takes effect. This article is intended as a simplified Guide to the Act, but is not intended to offer any legal advice.

Firstly, no carrier can “contract out of the Act” – if their printed terms and conditions are contrary to those in the Act, The Act takes precedence.

Typically, unless a specific contract to the contrary has been agreed, freight being delivered locally will fall in to the category of “At Limited Carriers Risk”. The carrier is liable for loss or damage to any goods (in accordance with Section 9, 14 & 15 of the Act), of up to $1500 (inc GST) per unit lost or damaged.

It should be noted that if 10 cartons, each valued at $5000 (so $50,000 in total) are shrunk wrapped on to one pallet and the consignment note states “1 Pallet”, in the event of any loss or damage, maximum liability may be $1500. This is also the case if the con note specifies “1 x 20ft container”.

Providing the importer has sufficient of the right sort of insurance cover, this lack of knowledge is possibly not that important.

2.Carriers Obligations.
Traditionally, the carrier is obligated to get the deliver to the client’s premises, or “tail board delivery”.
It is usually the client’s responsibility to unload the cargo off the truck (containers are an exception)
In recent years it has become more common for trucks to have Tail Lifts, and our drivers often unload pallets at client’s premises (sometimes even wheeling pallets into clients warehouse or store, but it should be noted that carriers Liability effectively ends as the cargo is presented for unloading – the Driver is acting as a courtesy to the client, not providing a service that has been charged for)
Any damage incurred during unloading (regardless how it is caused) is the client’s responsibility
The driver also has the right to refuse to assist in the unloading process if, in his opinion, there is a risk of damage to truck or cargo, or injury to any party. 
3.Signing for cargo. 
The receiver has an obligation to satisfy themselves that the cargo has been delivered in sound condition, free from loss or damage, or “Clean”, and sign accordingly (noting any discrepancies). The carrier is entitled to charge for his time in the event this process exceeds normal delivery time. 
In the event the client does find loss or damage after signing for the cargo “clean”, they may make a claim with a reasonable time (7 days), but the onus is on them to establish that this occurred prior to delivery to them. The Act remains silent on this matter.
4.How do we handle claims?
Typically, most claims made within this industry are repudiated as a matter of course, with very few proceeding, regardless of fault or culpability.  We are one of very few forwarders / carriers who use the services on an Independent and professional “Loss Adjuster” to handle any claims we may have, to establish impartially where liability falls, and who is responsible for what – our insurers inevitably accept his advice and make good any resultant claims. 

News added by: Don Malcolm 13 October 2014

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