Monday, August 23, 2010

Bills of Lading Container Shipping Fraud Revealed

IMB Find Dishonest Dealings - and Stupidity
Shipping News Feature

INDIA – A warning has gone out from the ICC Commercial Crime Services (CCS), the anti-crime arm of the International Chamber of Commerce, of serious maritime fraud emanating from the subcontinent. Several consignments of clothing and footwear, all of which appear on apparently genuine NVOCC Bills of Lading, in fact never existed. All the relevant documents carried the container numbers of actual boxes but the containers in question were dispersed around the globe at the time of issue.

The details were explained by ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Director Pottengal Mukundan, who commented:

“These documents are very convincing, as they feature genuine vessels that call at the named ports and use containers that are in circulation. It was only when third-party verification was sought from the physical carriers and port authorities that it became apparent that these shipments had not taken place. Perhaps most worryingly, these documents appeared on the stationery of a well-known NVOCC that has always carried out shipments without reported problems. It has subsequently taken robust steps to stop future misuse of its name.”

Although the IMB were reluctant to name the NVOCC it appears that their enquiries revealed the the Non-Vessel Owning Common Carrier responsible was in the habit of regularly issuing blank Bs/L to their customers, an open invitation to fraud. Third parties who obtained blank documents duly filled them in and perpetrated a fraud on the unsuspecting customers and their banks.

A full criminal investigation is under way but as Mr Mukundan points out:

“NVOCCs and freight forwarders play an important part in international trade. It is important that safeguards are in place to ensure the security of blank Bills of Lading, and there are systems in place to track them if they are misused.” A point anyone in the industry would have thought obvious.

Based in London, CCS is a membership organisation tasked with combating all forms of commercial crime. The specialist divisions that comprise CCS offer a range of services dedicated to meeting the individual needs of the members. Together, they tackle all types of commercial crime; fraud in international trade, insurance fraud, financial instrument fraud, money laundering, shipping fraud and product counterfeiting. For further details of services offered to IMB members, please call +44 207 423 6960 or email