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Analyzing Multimodal Transport Contract Case

Author of article: Lawyers of Shandong Win & Win Co. Law Firm
Basic Information of Case:
Smart Integrated House Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “Smart Company”) entrusted Shanghai International Logistics Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as ” Logistics company”) to transport a batch of removable houses, from Qingdao port of China by sea, through Laem Chabang port of Thailand, to Sihanouk port of Cambodia, and then to land Construction site near hanouk port by land transportation. The goods were confiscated by Thai customs due to Logistics company’s failure to transfer the goods to the port on time.
Smart Company filed a lawsuit to Qingdao Maritime Court, requesting: 1. Logistics company compensate for direct economic losses, including goods value; inland transportation cost from Zhengzhou to Qingdao; Qingdao port miscellaneous charges and sea transportation according to the wrong delivery date provided by the defendant 2. The litigation cost of this case shall be borne by the defendant company.
Arguments of the Logistics Company: 1. The relationship between logistics Company and Smart Company was a freight principal-agent contract. As an agent, Logistics Company did not have any fault in the process of handling the shipment of goods involved in the case, neither need to bear any liability for compensation. 2. The opinion of Smart Company that the two parties are multimodal transport contracts and adopt DDP terms for the whole process operation is lack of factual basis, so it should not be supported according to law. 3. Even if the goods involved in the case were arranged by the Logistics Company for the whole transportation, Logistics Company is not to bear any liability for the loss of the goods, because the goods involved are not lost. 4. The losses claimed by Smart Company are lack of facts and legal basis, so they should not be supported according to law.

The focus of this case: Whether the defendant Logistics Company is a role of freight forwarder or multimodal transport operator in this case.
Fact analysis: The so-called multimodal transport contract refers to the contract that the multimodal transport operator uses two or more different modes of transport, one of which is the mode of maritime transport, responsible for transporting the goods from the receiving place to the destination and delivering them to the consignee, and collecting the whole freight. Multimodal transport operator refers to the person who, in his or her own name, signs a multimodal transport contract with the shipper. In this case, although the name of the contract signed by and between Smart Company and Logistics Company is the agreement for consignment or agency of freight, the contract involved in the case stipulates that the total cost of transportation to the destination port, and the prices are all tax inclusive quotations, and Logistics Company is responsible for delivering the goods to the address designated by Smart Company. At the same time, the contract also stipulates the transportation time of the goods, the period of responsibility of the transporter and the obligations of the shipper. This Logistics Company has the qualification certificate of multimodal transport operator and is responsible for the whole transportation of the goods involved, which conforms to the characteristics of multimodal transport operator. According to the communication records of both parties, Logistics Company is responsible for the customs declaration, shipping, foreign customs clearance and foreign transportation of the goods involved in the case. Logistics Company shall responsible for the whole process of the circulation of sea bills of lading. Therefore, no matter from the content of the contract or the performance of the contract, Smart Company and Logistics Company formed a multimodal transport contract relationship. Logistics Company failed to transfer the goods involved in the case in time, resulting in the goods being confiscated by the customs. As a multimodal transport operator, Logistics Company should be responsible for this.

Case resolution:
After accepting the entrustment of Smart Company, lawyer Kevin Liu of Shandong win & Win Law Firm handle the case. First of all, after fully understanding the contract, business process and focus issues signed by both parties, through research, Kevin determined the basic litigation strategy, that is, to prove that Logistics Company’s role in this case is multimodal transport operator, requiring it to bear the carrier’s responsibility and bear the liability for the loss of the goods involved in the case. In the process of litigation, our lawyers made full use of the favorable evidence, combined with the facts of the case, fully explained the major faults of Logistics Company as a multimodal transport operator in the case and the basis for compensation. After the trial of Qingdao Maritime Court, the defendant Logistics Company accepted the mediation plan proposed by our lawyer under the mediation of the court, and Smart Company obtained whole compensation.

Case analysis:
The multimodal transport operator shall conclude a multimodal transport contract with the consignor himself or by his representative, be responsible for performing or organizing the performance of the multimodal transport contract, undertake the obligations of the carrier for the whole transport. The period of responsibility of the multimodal transport operator shall be the whole period from the time of receiving the goods to the time of delivery, during which the carrier is in charge of the goods.
The following points should be paid attention to when signing a multimodal transport contract: 1. A multimodal transport contract should be signed between the shipper and the multimodal transport operator, and to clarify the rights, obligations and exemptions of both parties. Multimodal transport contract is the fundamental basis for determining the nature of multimodal transport, and also an important basis for distinguishing multimodal transport from freight forwarding or general transport. 2. It must be a single freight rate for the whole journey. This freight rate is charged at one time, including transportation cost (sum of freight and miscellaneous charges of each section), operation and management fee and reasonable profit. 3. A multimodal transport operator shall be responsible for the whole transportation. Operator is the party who signs the multimodal transport contract with the shipper, and also the one who issues the multimodal transport document or the multimodal transport bill of lading. It undertakes the whole transportation responsibility from the time of receiving the goods to the time of delivery. In addition, in case of any loss or accident during the transportation of the goods, it shall timely communicate with the multimodal transport operator to reduce the loss or obtain compensation as soon as possible.