The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the original author or contributor. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the UK P&I Club.
The issue of abandoned cargo is exactly what it says on the tin, cargo that has been abandoned - most commonly (but not exclusively) at the port of discharge.
The reasons for a cargo to be left sad and alone in unfamiliar territory varies from the consignee going bankrupt to administrative issues with the documentation or even seizure by customs.
As a Club we often get asked whether we cover the costs involved in an abandoned cargo matter and the short answer, is that it will completely depend on a case by case basis. However, as a rule (and in fact in THE rules) the costs would have to be over and above what would ordinarily be incurred if the cargo had been collected or removed, it should be solely due to the consignee failing to collect or remove the cargo and the costs must exceed any sales proceeds as well as no other resource being available.
The amount that you can expect to incur from an abandoned cargo matter will differ however; the best advice we can give is to act quickly! Find out what is needed in the jurisdiction you're in and aim to get everything in hand before the storage costs rack up. It should also be noted here that cargo can sometimes be moved to a cheaper storage area and it's therefore prudent to look into whether this is an option. We would certainly want to get the correspondent involved from the get go as they are best placed to advise on procedures and will know the right people to contact. It is also a great idea to get a letter of abandonment from the consignee and/or shipper if this is possible as this is a document which is commonly requested and will help to speed things up.
As you can imagine, with shipping being a worldwide business, we see these cases pop up in various countries and rather unhelpfully, the way they are handled completely differs in each. However, don't let this stress you out because we are here to make things run more smoothly for you and have created a handy guide on our website to help with just this. You can now search country by country to see how abandoned cargoes are dealt with in that particular area, allowing you to put the wheels in motion when you first become aware of the issue. This is a database that we are currently growing and information will be added and amended as time goes on. If you have any particular areas you would like us to cover please let us know and we would be happy to receive your feedback on what we have so far - this is after all a tool for you!
So to recap, abandoned cargo matters can be a bit of a long winded process. However, armed with the local knowledge and a practical approach we should hopefully see a reduction in the cost of these claims going forward.