Shipping Agent’s Liability under the Egyptian Maritime Law

The importance of Maritime Services and the role and liability of the shipping lines under Egyptian Maritime Law. The role of the agency is to...

July 15, 2020
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Maritime services, provided by shipping agencies in Egypt for foreign vessels which are calling various Egyptian Ports, are considered the pillar and mainstay of the Egyptian economy, owing to their role in the infusion of foreign currencies and boosting and developing the economy of our country. Since the nature of shipping industry requires the prompt performance of works and services, such an approach shall be maintained for the purpose of keeping up with the pace of maritime services to attract foreign vessels to Egyptian ports, as well as maintain the workflow therein. For this purpose, the legislator regulated the scope of the shipping agent works in the Egyptian Maritime Law.
In this article, we will shed light on the scope of shipping agencies works under Egyptian law, as we will hereinafter, articulate, the legal relationship between the shipping agency and its principal (vessel operator) as well as the Shipping agent obligations and responsibilities under Maritime Trade Law No. 8 of 1990.

1. Legal Relationship between the Shipping Agent and the Vessel’s Operator
The legal relationship that arises between the shipping agent and the vessel’s operator is a contractual relationship governed by the agency agreement signed by and between the parties, whereby the shipping agent conducts all the legal works and acts pertinent to the vessel in the ordinary diligence, in consideration for a fee/remuneration. Hence, the shipping agent is responsible and accountable to the operator for conducting such duties as a remunerated agent under article 142 of the law, as mentioned earlier. Therefore, there is no dependency relationship between the operator and the shipping agent since the latter is carrying out the work assigned thereto in consideration for a fee/remuneration.

The  Maritime Trade Law stipulated that the law of the port state, whereon such contracts and acts are made, shall be deemed the governing law that organize the legal relationship between the shipping agents and the operators. Whereas, according to the said law the shipping agent is authorized to file a lawsuit against its principal before the competent court, where the shipping agent’s domicile  is situated within its territorial jurisdiction. Besides, the law set forth two years from the due date as a prescription period. The shipping agent also may have the right to apply for obtaining an arrest order against the Principal’s vessel  as a security for the collection of a debt thereof, since the shipping agent’s remuneration is deemed a maritime debt whereby the law permits the imposition of such action.

What Are The Shipping Agent’s Obligations?
  • Maritime Trade Law No. 8 of 1990 defines the obligations of the Shipping agent in articles (140 to 144) which indicates the scope of the Shipping agent works, which are as follows:
  • Works/services which are relating to providing ordinary needs for the vessel such as supplies, fuel, and spare parts
  • The Shipping agent may handle the operation of receiving the goods to be shipped on board the  vessel .It may also handle the operation of deliver the  goods to their owners after discharging the goods from the vessel upon its arrival and collect due transportation fees for the vessel’s operator.
  • The Shipping agent is considered as the legal domicile of the vessel operator (Principal) , and his representative in any lawsuit filed by or against the Principal in Egypt, wherein the latter would be notified with any judicial and non-judicial documents

What Is the Shipping's Agent Liability?
The Shipping's agent liability towards the vessel’s operator is governed by the agency agreement signed between both parties, as mentioned hereinabove. As for its liability towards shippers and consignees, the shipping agent is not liable for any loss or damage that occurs to goods. Unless the same has been sustained due to the shipping agent’s personal default committed by him or its successors. Hence, shippers and consignees may not raise any claims as a result of any loss or damage that occurs to their goods, save the cases wherein they can prove that the damage or loss occurred is attributed to the default of the vessel’s Shipping's agent or its successors.

The Court of Cassation's opinion on the legal Nature of the Shipping Agent

The Court of Cassation has addressed the legal nature of the scope of shipping agent works under the Egyptian law; the court stated that the operator is the party who has the right to exploit the ship on its account in its capacity as the owner or charterer. Generally, the owner is deemed the ship operator, unless otherwise proved. Moreover, the articles of the Maritime Trade Law indicate in this regard that; the legislator has called upon every foreign ship that practice any commercial activities within Egypt to assign such activities and all the actions associated thereto, to a shipping agent, acting on behalf of its owner, whether the shipowner was a natural or legal person. In this case, the Shipping Agent domicile shall considered as be the shipowner’s domicile. Article 105 of the Civil Code stipulates that "if the representative, within the power of his representation, concludes a contract in the principal name, The provisions of this contract and all ensuing rights and obligations shall accrue to the principal.".In the light of the provisions of the said Article, it is established that the rights and obligation, arisen by any actions the agent may take on behalf of the principal, are to be attributed, accordingly, to the principal; since the agent Will, even if it may subrogate the principal Will,  but the legal effect of such Will is personally attributed to the principal as if the principal is the party who initially took that action.  Subsequently, any case that would be initiated to claim the enforcement of the rights and obligations resulted from the agent’s action shall be filed against the principal, not the agent. The delegation of Shipping Agent to institute proceedings for a lawsuit on behalf of the operator is only limited to the scope of such delegation, as it is only relating to the procedural capacity of initiating the litigation procedures.Moreover, this delegation may not be associated with the plaintiff’s right or the alleged legal status. Hence, the Shipping Agent may not be held liable for any obligation that is originally borne by the principal.

In summary, the Shipping agent is the party which is assigned to perform works in favor of the vessel’s operator in return for a remuneration/fees, so all the works done by the agent shall be attributed to the vessel’s operator, thereby the shippers and consignees may not raise any claims or demand any compensation if any loss or damage occurred unless such loss or damage occurred due to its personal default. As for the legal relationship between the shipping agent and the operator, it shall be governed by the provisions of the agency agreement and the relevant law articles regulating such a relationship.
For any specific questions or more information concerning the shipping agent’s works in Egypt or UAE  please don’t hesitate to contact us

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