On March 14, 2018, the Magistrate Court in the city of Be’er Sheva in Israel gave a ruling on the question of whether a freight forwarder is responsible for alleged damage sustained by an importer as a result of a delay in the arrival of goods.
The plaintiff hired the services of an Israeli freight forwarder for forwarding a shipment from China to Israel by sea carriage. The freight forwarder informed the plaintiff that the estimated arrival date of the vessel was April 18, 2017. Thereafter, the freight forwarder informed the plaintiff about the cancellation of the booking due to problems with space on the vessel, and that it had booked the shipment on another vessel whose estimated arrival date was April 26, 2017. Later on, the freight forwarder informed the plaintiff that the vessel had stopped at Singapore for repairing a malfunction. It was also stated that following the fault, the vessel would not stop in Israel and would sail directly to Greece and that the goods intended for Israel would be unloaded in Greece and reloaded on another vessel that was expected to arrive in Israel on May 8, 2017. After a few days, the plaintiff received a notice that it had been decided to remove hundreds of containers from the vessel in Greece, including the plaintiff’s container, owing to a stability problem of the vessel, and that the plaintiff’s cargo was expected to arrive on May 18, 2017. The plaintiff asked to have the container arrive on an earlier date and state that he would sustain financial damage as a result of the delays. The freight forwarder informed the plaintiff that no better option than the one offered to the plaintiff was found. On May 16, 2017, the plaintiff received a notice that the date of arrival of the vessel had been updated to May 21, 2017 following a delay in the unloading of the vessel in Israel.
The plaintiff filed a pecuniary claim against the freight forwarder for the damage that he had sustained owing to the late arrival of the goods. The plaintiff argued that he had undertaken to deliver the shipment to its customer on a defined date and a fine had been established in the case of delayed delivery. The plaintiff also argued that the conduct of the freight forwarder was unprofessional and negligent and that the freight forwarder had not tracked the shipment as it should have done and did not fulfill its duty to update him on a regular basis throughout the process.
The freight forwarder argued that it had coordinated the transport for the plaintiff through a shipping company and that it is not responsible for the carriage of the goods or the late arrival of the goods. The freight forwarder tracked the transport of the goods and updated the plaintiff in real time of the goods’ status, including the malfunction of the vessel and the developments that occurred afterward and acted to the best of its ability, to the extent things were under its control, to find suitable solutions.
The Court accepted the arguments of the freight forwarder and dismissed the claim. The Court ruled that the arrival times were given as a forecast only and that the freight forwarder had not guaranteed an exact arrival date to the plaintiff. In addition, it was ruled that the malfunction of the vessel and the events that occurred afterward were not at the freight forwarder’s responsibility.
The Court ruled that the freight forwarder didn’t act as a contractual carrier and under the circumstances of the case, it had acted as a reasonable and professional freight forwarder. The freight forwarder tracked the shipment, sent the plaintiff updates in real time or close to real time, and tried to expedite the arrival of the shipment and also performed genuine actions to find alternatives to the shipment transport. The freight forwarder did notify the plaintiff belatedly concerning one of the messages received from the shipping company, however, the freight forwarder had proved that there was no connection between the late notification and the delay that resulted from the arrival of the shipment in Israel.
Our law firm provided legal consultation to the freight forwarder.