Shippers accused of shortchanging

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The Independent Online

Multinationals are foregoing hundreds of millions of pounds a year in compensation by accepting inferior contracts from shipping lines out of "ignorance".

Even blue-chip companies mistakenly believe they cannot alter the so-called "bills of lading" offered by ship owners which stipulate the cost of processing each consignment and the insurance cover on offer, the Freight Transport Association says. That means huge companies, including major manufacturers and high street retailers, unnecessarily accept delays, loss and damage without recompense, the FTA claims.

It says businesses involved in moving goods by sea often believe the bills of lading are set in stone by international treaties and are unalterable.

Chris Welsh, co-author of the FTA study, urged companies to take advantage of an emerging "buyers' market" in the run-up to deregulation in 2009.

A spokesman for the British Chamber of Shipping said the FTA's study "emphasised the need for expert advice before making any changes to contractual relationships which might create unintended liabilities or prejudice insurance cover".