Shipping line bankrupt with your cargo on board? What now?

By David Goris, Manager DP LEGAL, a brand of the DP SURVEY GROUP NV, IUMI Professional Partner,

In mid-February 2020, we started to receive calls from worried clients with cargo lying idle on board three different vessels at anchor off ports in Egypt, Italy and Singapore. The cargo was delayed in delivery due to the German-based shipping line/charterer being in state of restructuring and insolvency.

The twenty thousand metric tons of mainly steel and project cargo, spread over almost 55 Bills of Lading we represented, was booked December 2019-January 2020 for delivery to mainly the UAE and Asia ports and now became exposed to non-delivery, penalty fines under sale contracts, additional discharge and temporary storage costs, extra freight for on carriage, possible cargo damages, etc.


DP Legal acted to:

1.            Facilitate discharge of the cargo in the ‘intermediate’ port.

2.            Assist in on-carriage solutions.

3.            Organise cargo surveys during discharge and re-loading.

4.            Collect and report on costs incurred for insurance purposes.

5.            Ad-hoc consultancy, and

6.            Analyse recovery possibilities.


For the cargo on board of two out of the three vessels, DP Legal negotiated liner-hook discharge agreements with the lawyers appointed by the ship owners. As a direct result, this limited the costs, as well as responsibilities and liabilities of our clients who booked the on-carriage vessels.

For the cargo on board the third vessel, the ship owners contracted a local ship agent to arrange for berthing, discharge and storage in the Egyptian ‘intermediate’ port. DP Legal negotiated the terms and rates of discharge and storage while simultaneously, our clients booked the on-carriage vessels.

With the help of our colleagues at DPS Africa and DPS Antwerp Liaison, almost 25 joint surveys were carried out in three intermediate ports and nine destination ports in order to assess eventual cargo damages during discharge and loading and advise on lashing & securing.

All cargo was delivered to its final destination early May 2020. Total cost for discharge and on-carriage of almost USD $2.3million was reported to our clients in our casualty summary reports (

Recovery possibilities are still being analysed. Feel free to contact us if you would like to have more insights or have any questions with regard to any of the above.