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Forwarder Operation Guidelines (Sea)

Chans' Advice
The following column is authored by Richard Chan and Simon Chan of Sun Hing Insurance Brokers Ltd. The authors welcome queries which can be addressed to their individual emails or contact details below.

We have drafted the following forwarder operation guidelines aimed at avoiding errors or omissions and therefore preventing losses as far as possible.


1. Carefully check the external condition of the goods delivered by the shipper for shipment and ensure that the receipt is remarked accordingly when the goods show damage, defects or discrepancies.

2. Ensure that the information mentioned in the Bill of Lading ("B/L") is correct, in particular:

(a) On-board date

(b) Name of the vessel

(c) Voyage details (the place of receipt, load port, discharge port, place of delivery)

(d) Description, quantity and external condition of the goods

(e) The shipper, consignee and notify part details.

3. Ensure that the transshipment port is stated in the B/L.

4. Ensure that the container number and seal number are clearly stated in the B/L.

5. Ensure that the name of the Non-Vessel Owning Carrier ("NVOC") (whose House B/L has been issued) is stated as the Shipper in the Ocean B/L issued by the shipping company.

6. Do not issue a clean B/L for the goods which are already damaged or where discrepancies are noted.

7. Do not issue a shipped on board House B/L until the shipping company has issued its shipped on board Ocean B/L.

8. Do not guarantee any delivery time.  Only estimated time e.g. ETD, ETA is provided to the shipper and consignee.

9. Do not mention any value of the goods in the B/L.

10. Do not send out blank B/L unless it is clearly marked "sample".

11. Do not issue B/L for promised goods. B/L can only be issued after the goods have been received from the shipper.

12. If the delivery agent under the House B/L at the place of delivery is the same as the shipping company's agent, ensure that the Consignee Box in the shipping company's Ocean B/L is stated "To order of the holder of the original (NVOC's name) B/L (No. ??????) dated ??/??/????"

13. If the shipper wants to stop the shipment or to amend the particulars in the B/L, ensure that all the originals of the B/L are returned to the forwarder before the shipper's request may be complied with.

14. If the delivery agent at the place of delivery asks for authority to release the goods to the consignee which cannot present the duly endorsed original House B/L, the following must be obtained first

(i) prior approval in writing by the shipper,

(ii) first class bank guarantee letter indemnifying the NVOC for its liability resulted from release of the goods without the original House B/L,

(iii) a copy of the cargo commercial invoice and packing list and (iv) the written approval by a director of the NVOC whose House B/L has been issued.

15. Ensure that a bankdraft deposit (for reefer container value) is obtained as security before release of empty reefer container especially to new shipper for stuffing.

16. Any guarantee must be kept safely.


1. Carefully check the external condition of the goods upon delivery by the shipping company and ensure that the receipt is remarked accordingly when the goods show damage, defects or discrepancies.

2. Check the original B/L presented by the consignee carefully against the copy received in advance, in particular:

(a) Dates

(b) Name of the vessel

(c) Voyage details

(d) Cargo description and quantity

(e) Shipper, consignee and notify part details

(f) Endorsements on the back of the B/L.

3. Ensure that the goods are only released against presentation by the consignee of the duly endorsed original B/L.

4. If the consignee is unable to present the original House B/L and insists on receiving the goods:

a) contact the shipper and obtain its prior written approval to release the goods to the consignee without the original House B/L;

b) only release the goods to the consignee against a guarantee countersigned and stamped by a first class bank under which the consignee and the bank undertake to indemnify the NVOCC (whose House B/L has been issued) against the liability of releasing the cargo without original House B/L.  Ensure that the original of such guarantee letter is received, that the guarantee is at least for an amount of 2 times of the CIF-value of the goods, and that it has no limitation in time and is in favour of the NVOC whose House B/L has been issued;

c) obtain a copy of the cargo commercial invoice and packing list; and

d) obtain the NVOCC's prior written approval to the cargo release without original House B/L.  The approval should be signed by a director of the NVOCC.

5. Any guarantee must be kept safely.

6. Ensure to collect any charges due to the NVOC e.g. freight, duty, tax, demurrage, ... before releasing the goods.

7. Inform the NVOC immediately when there is cargo loss, damage, delay or claim.

8. Encourage the consignee to claim against the cargo insurance for fuller and quicker compensation in case of cargo loss or damage.

9. Follow up with the consignee or the shipping company to obtain documentary proof that the empty container after devanning has been returned to the shipping company.

Please feel free to contact us should you have any questions on any of the above.
Simon Chan, Associate Director
Richard Chan, Associate Director
Sun Hing Insurance Brokers Ltd,
Unit C, 10/F., United Centre, 95 Queensway, Hong Kong.
Tel: 2529 1299 Fax: 2866 7465

About the authors

Richard Chan has been in the shipping industry and the transport liability insurance industry for more than 17 years, out of which he worked for TT Club for more than 11 years.  He was the Claims Director there overseeing the Asia Pacific region.  He is now the Associate Director of Sun Hing Insurance Brokers Ltd. specialising in transport liability insurance and claim.  He has years of experience dealing with liability, claim and risk management of the
transport industry operators.Chan has been very active in the transport and also the transport liability insurance industries.  Over the years, he has also given many seminars organized by various organisations. Chan graduated from the Hong Kong Polytechnics with the Professional Diploma in Business Studies (Transport) in 1984.  He obtained the qualification of MCIT and ACIArb. in 1987 and 2000 respectively.  He holds  an MBA degree. Email:

Simon Chan, Associate Director and co-founder of the Transport Risk Management Team at Sun Hing Insurance Brokers Ltd since 2000, deals in transport liability insurance broking plus provision of unique transport risk management services. He has extensive risk assessment marketing and sales experience in marine insurance products in Greater China.
Simon was a director of Thomas Miller Hong Kong Ltd, representing the United Kingdom Club (UK Club), the Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) and the Through Transport Club (TT Club). He was also the Underwriting Manager looking after accounts in the Asia Pacific for the TT Club. Previously, in 1981-1988, Chan was Regional Manager for Martinair after he worked for the shipping company, Nedlloyd Lines. Simon was educated at the University of Hong Kong, where he received a B.A., (Hons); at the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators; and at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology where he got his Master of Business Administration in Finance and E-commerce. Email: