January 20 - Signum Services - the investigative arm of Thomas Miller & Co Ltd working on behalf of the members of the UK P&I Club - has uncovered a series of frauds perpetrated against ship owners with regard to bogus cargo in Turkey.

Signum Services is aware of at least 20 cases over the past 18 months, which involve criminals purporting to be shop brokers and port agents in Turkey.

Non existent cargo - most often including cement, boilers and phosphate -is being offered to ship owners/managers at attractive rates, generally while their vessel is at a port without at cargo.

The terms are always 'liner in' meaning that the owner must pay up front for any stevedore and berthing costs, and the fraudulent broker insists that its own port agents must be used. The money is then paid into the agent's Turkish bank account, withdrawn immediately and a new account opened for the next victim.

The fraudsters are using the names of reputable companies - often Lafarge and Sinofert, who have no knowledge that their details are being used - as the charterer.

They will provide details of previous fixings, which are always false, as well as a contact name and phone number - the person will not be a real member of the charterer but another member of the criminal team.

It is clear that those responsible for these frauds have a detailed knowledge of the shipping and chartering business, warns Signum. The investigation continues, and members of the UK P&I Club are warned to be alert and vigilant if offered such deals.