The circumstances in which an indorsee of a bill of lading obtains title to sue the carrier

This case concerns an issue in relation to the application of s.5(2)(b) of the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992 (COGSA), in particular the circumstances in which ‘a person with possession of the bill as a result of the completion, by delivery of the bill, of any indorsement of the bill’ has title to sue under a bill of lading.

A wider issue addressed by this case is the question of what rights a bank that issues a letter of credit (LC) has in respect of the cargo represented by bills of lading indorsed to it in the context of a presentation under the LC, in circumstances in which the LC bank dishonours the credit. However, this article will focus on the above issue in respect of COGSA 1992.

The underlying transaction in this case was a sale by Gunvor International to United Infrastructure Development Corporation (UIDC) of a cargo of gas oil for delivery to CIF Takoradi, Ghana. That sale was secured by the transfer of an LC confirmed by Standard Chartered Bank (SCB). Having shipped the cargo on the Erin Schulte, Gunvor presented documents required under the LC to SCB on 3 June 2010. In response, on 9 June 2010 SCB notified two alleged discrepancies, both of which assumed acceptance by Gunvor of amendments that SCB had earlier sought to make to the LC but that had not been accepted by Gunvor. SCB indicated that they were holding the documents to the presenter’s order…

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