November 22 - According to the International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC), the misreading of tariffs in shipping documentation is a common cause of costly claims.

ITIC cites the case of a South American port agent, which was asked by the owners of a vessel to provide a quote for the costs of discharging a shipment of project cargo.

The agent reviewed the port authority's official tariffs, and advised the owners that the stevedoring costs would be USD28.90 per tonne of cargo.

The cargo weighed a total of 296 tonnes, so the owners calculated the stevedoring costs at approximately USD8,500 and quoted that in turn to the charterers of the vessel. The voyage was duly fixed on that basis.

After the cargo had been discharged, the stevedores invoiced the agent for the sum of USD130,000. When these costs were questioned by the owners, the agent realised that the USD28.90 rate it had quoted to the owners was the rate per cu m, not per tonne. It was apparent that the agent had simply misread the port tariff document, said ITIC.

Having discussed with the agent, the stevedores agreed to offer a discount on the costs, and the claim - which was covered by ITIC - was ultimately settled for USD75,000.

ITIC stressed that claims often arise from misread tariffs. In another recent case, it pointed out that ship agents in Australia quoted the incorrect port charges for a local port to their customer. The customer then fixed on that basis and suffered a loss of AUD86,000 (USD63,000).