Mate’s receipt. This is a document originally issued by the first mate of the ship. He was the officer responsible for cargo. The document would be issued by him after the cargo was tallied into the ship by tally clerks.
The shipper or his representative would then take the mate’s receipt to the master or the agent to exchange it for a bill of lading, which would incorporate any conditions inserted into the mate’s receipt. In modern days, the document known as the Mate’s receipt” is not often signed by the mate of the ship but by some person in the shore office of the shipping company or its agents, although the name of the document remains the same.
In a charterparty a clause will require the master to sign bills of lading as presented but in accordance with mate’s receipts: If it is impracticable for the master to sign the bills of lading he can authorise the port agent to do so on his behalf, but also in accordance with the mate’s receipts. For example, the NYPE charterparty states that “. . . Charterers are to load, stow and trim the cargo at their expense under the supervision of the Captain, who is to sign Bills of Lading for cargo as presented, in conformity with Mate’s or Tally Clerk’s receipts . . .”. The “receipt” function of this document is similar to the bill of lading function of receipt for cargo on board the ship. This has the effect of confirming that the carrier is responsible for the goods and is the first evidence of the condition and quantity of the goods when they were received.
Mate’s receipt. This is a document used in the shipment of a cargo. When the goods are received by or for the sea carrier, a “mate’s receipt” is issued either directly by the ship or by the ship’s agents. This is the first evidence that the goods are received and statements on the document describe the quantity of goods, any identifying marks and the apparent condition.
This information is inserted from visual evidence when the goods are received. The quantity can be verified by a “tally” or count being made of the number of packages and the tally clerk’s receipt may be attached to the mate’s receipt. This information on the mate’s receipt is very important because this information should also be transferred on to the bill of lading.
The bills of lading are usually required to be issued “in accordance” or “in conformity” with the mate’s receipts and/or the tally clerk’s receipts. Sometimes the document that is issued by the agents of the carrier fulfills the function of the mate’s receipt but is called the “dock receipt”.
Originally the mate’s receipt was signed by the first mate of the ship, hence its name. Now, it can just as likely be signed by the ship’s agents.
The information on the mate’s receipt is usually checked against the information and description of the goods as furnished by the shipper, particularly when the shipper prepares the bill of lading document for signature by or for the carrier.
While the mate’s receipt is a receipt for goods and good evidence of their quantity, nature and condition, it is not a document of title. ft does not give the holder the same rights as does a bill of lading. In an old case, Nippon Yusen Kaisha v. Ramjiban Serowgee, 1938, it was said that a mate’s receipt:
“…is not a document of title to the goods shipped. Its transfer does not pass property in the goods, nor is its possession equivalent to possession of the goods. It is not conclusive and its statements do not bind the shipowner… It is, however, prima fade evidence of the quantity and condition of the goods received, and prima facie, it is the recipient or possessor who is entitled to have the bill of lading issued to him.”
Because it is important to the shipper to be able to obtain a bill of lading that he can present to an advising or confirming bank to obtain payment, if a mate’s receipt is lost or stolen, advertisements are usually placed in the commercial and shipping media to advise that the mate’s receipt (or dock receipt) is lost and cancelled. This is considered to prevent a carrier from issuing a bill of lading to the person who comes into possession of the original mate’s receipt.
It is also very important to the value of the information on the bill of lading as prima facie evidence that the goods were received in the quantity and with the identifying marks as noted on the bill of lading. Under the Hague-Visby Rules this information on the bill of lading is prima fade evidence against the shipper and conclusive evidence against a third party transferee of the bill. The nature of this “prima fade evidence” is that it can be contradicted by the carrier’s raising contrary evidence.
In The Nogar Mann, 1987, the ship was chartered to carry a cargo of wire rods. The charterers were the manufacturers of the rods. Some of the coils were rusty when shipped. The mate’s receipt was not noted appropriately. When the mate’s receipts were exchanged for the bills of lading, the ship’s agents issued unclaused, clean bills. When the vessel arrived at the discharging port, the damage was discovered and claims were made by the receivers. The shipowners compromised the receivers claims and then claimed against the charterers for indemnity. It was held that the agents would have been justified in refusing to sign bills of lading which were not a true representation of the condition of the goods. However, because the bills of lading had already been signed in an unclaused form, the carriers had to disprove the prima fade evidence that the goods were in good non of the bills of lading. The owners’ argument that the charterers had breached contract of carriage by tendering a clean mate’s receipt was rejected by the Court of Appeal.
The mate’s receipt was not part of the mechanism under the charterparty, which required bills of lading to be signed as presented. It was confirmed that the mate’s receipt was not a document of title as was the bill of lading. It was a simple receipt.