ECT Delta Terminal hit by $1.4m cargo claim.
DUTCH terminal operator ECT Delta Terminal has been forced to pay a ?950,071 ($1.4m) cargo claim after being slammed as reckless and negligent by Hong Kong"s Admiralty court for ignoring its own internal procedures over the release of cargo.
The terminal, controlled by Hong Kong's Hutchison Port Holdings, also faces a substantial bill for costs which will be assessed separately.
Had the terminal company been cleared, compensation would have limited to just $2 per kg, equivalent to around $22,000.
ECT Delta Terminal was one of 11 defendants in an action brought by five companies including Sony Computer Entertainment, Maintek Computer (Suzhou) and Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, which had already paid the insurance claim.
Admiralty judge Anselmo Reyes was told that a consignment of Sony Playstations was sent in 11 containers from Shanghai to Rotterdam in August 2007 where they were cleared by various Kuehne+Nagel companies through customs. The boxes were due to be moved by barge to Tilberg and were registered in ECT Delta terminals barge system.
The judge was also told that a group of criminals obtained a copy of the customs clearance document and employed a truck driver to collect one of the containers from the terminal.
When the driver arrived to collect the box, one of the terminal"s trainee employees found all the containers were registered for delivery via ECT"s barge system. But the employee failed to check, as he should have done, to see if the box had been rerouted to the terminal"s trucking system. Instead, he rerouted the box himself and issued the driver with the data card to release the container from the terminal.
ECT Delta Terminal had claimed it was not negligent in releasing the container to the driver.
But the judge said: ?It seems to me negligent for a bailee or sub-bailee in ECT"s position to have released container X without following ECT"s own internal procedures.?
Judge Reyes said that while the employee should have checked to make sure the box had been transferred from the barge to the trucking system, the volume of containers being processed at the time meant no checks were done. ?He took a short-cut and simply re-routed container X to the trucking system,? the judge said.
He added it appeared similar short-cuts had been done by other terminal staff without mishap in the past.
In a judgment this week, Mr Reyes said: ?But that slack practice was only postponing the inevitable day when the obvious risk of misdelivery to an unauthorised person would materialise. That ECT got away with slackness in the past does not make what it did less reckless. The evidence is that, not surprisingly, since the events of the present case ECT has modified its procedures.?
The judge also rejected a suggestion by ECT"s lawyer Janet Ho that the terminal company was not liable for anything because misdelivery of container X took place after its discharge from the vessel in Rotterdam.
The action was brought in Hong Kong because Blue Anchor Line, part of Kuehne+Nagel, and one of ECT"s co-defendants, had a clause in its contract including the territory as a legal jurisdiction in case of dispute.
A leading lawyer commenting on the case told Lloyd"s List the terminal company had claimed misdelivery occurred all the time, but instead the judge had ruled the terminal had ?clearly not protected the rights of owners of the cargo?.