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Owner invoiced by port agents after Charterer goes bust

It is usually the time charterer who provides and pays for port agents. But if the charterer goes bankrupt, then can the agent look towards the shipowner for settlement of disbursements & agency charges? in The Lady Magda [2021] agents had lost in lower court and were appealing.

Charterer appointed port agents, made disbursements to third parties for items such as port dues, navigation dues, berth dues, pilotage dues and the like. Charterers were invoiced from time to time. Few months later charterers were declared bankrupt. Agents then looked towards the ship owners for payment.

Agents were contending that the disbursements created a personal liability on the shipowner. They characterised their claim as a claim for necessaries and since their services benefited the ship, it gave rise to a presumption that the ship (and hence the owners) were liable.

The Irish appeals court noted that the C/P required charterers to provide / pay for a port agent. The master had no actual authority to pledge the credit of the Owners. Agents knew that they were not dealing with the Owners. Decision - where a ship’s port agent makes disbursements at the request of a 3rd party that it knows is not the shipowner, it does not give rise to a personal liability on the part of owner.

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