Authority of agents to sign. The Saudi Crown case confirmed that the agents bound the earner even if they falsified the date on the bill of lading because it was decided that the agents had the authority of the carrier to sign for cargo received even though the date was falsified.
In an earlier case, V/O Rasnoimport v. Guthrie, 1966, the defendants were loading brokers (who act as agents for a shipowner and attempt to find cargo for the owner) who signed and issued bills of lading for 225 bales of rubber, yet only 90 bales had been shipped. It was held that the agents did not have authority to sign for 225 bales when in reality only 90 bales were shipped on board. The agents were held to be liable for “breach of warranty of authority”.
In The Nogar Marin, 1987, the master authorised the port agents to sign the bill of lading on his behalf. Some of the cargo of wire rods and coils was rusty when shipped. Nevertheless, the agents signed clean bills of lading for the cargo. Upon arrival at the discharging port, the damage was discovered. The receivers of the cargo arrested the vessel and claimed against the shipowner. The owner attempted to obtain an indemnity from the charterers. The master had negligently failed to record on the mate’s receipts that the cargo was damaged before shipment. The fact the agents had signed clean B/Ls was not cite direct causation of the cargo damage. The chain of causation had been broken by the master’s intervening negligence. This prevented the shipowner from successfully claiming an indemnity from the charterer.