CURIOUS: Shipbroker saddled with bill for $777,278.000 bunker supply

By Curious

Invoicing error led to a ship broker being asked to pay the bill for a bunker supply amounting to over $750,000.
ITIC cites the case of a chartering shipbroker that arranged a fixture for a sailing from the Black Sea to Singapore. The recap showed the sameness of both the registered ship-owner and the disponent owner with whom the negotiations had been concluded.
The disponent owner asked the shipbroker to arrange the deal of bunkers, and an order was placed with a supplier. The cost of the bunkers was $777,278.000. But instead of ordering the bunkers on behalf of the disponent owner, the shipbroker mistakenly ordered them on the registered owner's behalf, taking the name from the recap.
The bunkers were duly supplied and the vessel signed for them. The bunker supplier invoiced the registered owner (not the disponent owner), care of the broker, for the cost of the bunkers. The invoice was sent to the disponent owner but wasn't paid when due. When chased for payment, the disponent owner replied, "Regarding the payment for bunkers, I have passed to the financial side and they must be arranging payment, the delay is due to our company currently being audited and is going to be ending in the coming weeks'.
When additional requests for payment met with a similar response, the bunker suppliers instructed lawyers to gather the amount owed. When lawyers approached the registered ship owner they were told that the registered owner had never given any instructions for the purchase of the bunkers and that the responsible party must have been the disponent owner. If the bunkers had been purchased in the name of the registered owner, this was a misrepresentation on the part of the party that had secured the information to the bunker supplier.
Lawyers consequently turned their attention to the shipbroker, claiming that it was responsible for breach of warranty of authority. There wasn't prospect of going after the ship and the brokers entered a settlement with the bunker suppliers.