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Is a shipping line liable for any costs if they don’t send the arrival notification for import cargo..??

Thanks to the readers of this blog who ask some stimulating questions like the title of this post..

This is a very contentious issue between the shipping lines and the importers of the cargo and in my opinion, will continue to remain so.. To understand this further, i would like you to cast your mind (always wanted to say that) to my previous article regarding Part 1 of a Bill of Lading.. Below is what i wrote about who a consignee and notify are in the bill of lading :

Consignee – is the name and address details of the consignee who is receiving the cargo or is the actual buyer.. This may or may not be the actual owner or recipient of the cargo as it could be a bank or trader or forwarder depending on the type of bill of lading that is issue.. However, being named as the consignee on the bill of lading also comes with the risk and responsibility of being held accountable for many issues such as non-clearance of cargoes, late clearance, claims etc..

Notify – is the name and address details of the person who generally should be notified of the arrival of the cargo.. Depending on the bill of lading that is issued this could be the actual buyer or receiver of the goods, clearing and forwarding agent or the trader.. Generally the notice of cargo arrival is to be sent to this notify party..

The shipping lines/agents at a port of discharge generally follow the above information provided by the shipper and send out Arrival Notifications to the Consignee and/or Notify.. For all technical purposes, the Consignee wields more power than the Notify as the Consignee is whom the shipment is consigned to (irrespective of whether its a person, company, or a bank).. Notify party is merely a party to whom the details of the arrival of the cargo must be communicated to..

The question here is “Is a shipping line liable for any costs if they don’t send the arrival notification for import cargo..??”

If you ask a shipping line, they will clearly and categorically say NO, they are not liable.. What is the basis of their rejection of liability..??

Well to start with, if you look at the front of the bill of lading just next to the Notify Party, it says some words (depending on the line used) like

” Carrier not liable for failure to notify  or ” See Clause 20 ..

This clause number refers to the clause on the reverse of the  bill of lading (Terms and Conditions).. If you look there you might find a clause like

20. Notification and Delivery
(1) Any failure to give notification of the arrival of the goods shall not involve the Carrier in any liability nor relieve the Merchant of any obligation hereunder.


22. Notification and Delivery 
22.1 Any mentioning in this bill of lading of parties to be notified of the arrival of the Goods is solely for information of the Carrier. Failure to give such notification shall not involve the Carrier in any liability nor relieve the Merchant of any obligation hereunder. 

What the carrier is saying is that they are NOT obligated to send an arrival notification to the consignee/notify about the arrival of their cargo.. They do it as a service to the customer and it is also the responsibility of the customer (consignee/notify) to track and follow up on their shipment..

Almost 100% of the lines send out Arrival Notifications to the customers as a service, but none will accept any liability for NOT sending it out.. UNLESS there is a huge commercial implication for the line if they dont accept liability..

Have you had any experience or dispute with this..?? Please do share if you have had this experience (whether good or bad) so everyone can learn..

PS : i have mentioned above about the “front” and “reverse” of the bill of lading.. This i have used in the context of how we speak about the bill of lading on a day to day basis.. In reality, Page 1 of a bill of lading is what is usually called the “reverse” of the bill of lading where the Terms and Conditions are printed.. Check it out.. 🙂

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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiarhttps://www.shippingandfreightresource.com
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. Failure to send arrival notifications for import cargo can have serious repercussions, potentially leading to delays, increased costs, and operational disruptions for all parties involved. Shipping lines have a responsibility to provide timely and accurate information to ensure the smooth flow of goods through the supply chain. Neglecting to send crucial notifications not only impacts efficiency but also raises questions of accountability and liability. It is imperative for shipping lines to fulfill their obligations to avoid unnecessary complications and uphold the integrity of the logistics process.

  2. On the BL there is noting on the notify party just ”Notify Party (see clause 22)” what is the meaning of this ?

    • If you mean there is no name in the notify party field, it is fine.. This is not a mandatory field.. It simply means that no one needs to be notified of the arrival of the cargo.. Probably the consignee will monitor it themselves or they have an agent..

  3. I found this post very useful for Marine students, keep posting info like this. Kindly let me know how to subscribe for this blog because i need regular marine updates like this from you.

    • In practice, most shipping lines send out Arrival Notices to importers few days prior vessel arrival.
      However, the practice is seen by the lines sx courtesy and not obligatory

  4. A nice article stating the legal facts pertaining to the matter. You have however missed one crucial bit of information.

    WHY do shipping lines send ANF’s to the consignee’s/notify party?

    Since the beginning of shipping the shipper was responsible to contact his consignee as to when the cargo ETA and vessel was due to arrive. The consignee was then obliged to contact Shipping line as to when they should collect the cargo.

    Remember that the shipping line has been contracted to take cargo from a – b. Once discharged at destination there contracted role is complete.

    As containerization took off over the last century shipping lines were faced with an increasing dilemma where consignee’s were not collecting their containers on time. This congested ports and caused containers which are needed for re-export to be held up. To solve this they started notifying consignee’s prior to arrival to speed up the release and turn around of equipment.

    In Essence they were doing the Shipper a favor and in general do not charge for this. With the computer age this became automated. As this is a favor and not an obligation shipping lines indemnify themselves from a claim. There is no legal law obligating them to provide this.

    Unfortunately as the industry has progressed a lot of what we do today has been forgotten and shippers and consignee’s have got lazy relying on the shipping line to prompt them into action to clear their cargo. If the consignee’s are not prompted their own internal system of working has got no fall back to pick up this error as the ANF has largely become 99.99999% correct and on-time due to automation.

    Trust this explains better why a shipping line will not pay.

  5. What about an import shipment that was registered on a shipping company’s database as sent to consignee when it wasn’t even cleared. When the customer followed up for clearance, he was told the container had been discharged as per records. After 2 years the shipping company is following up on detention charges with this customer. And they have refused to provide any information to his query about the incident. Well they haven’t refused but are ignoring the customers request.

  6. sometimes carriers send arrival notification and sometimes they don’t , in both case i usually follow up with the shipping line for vessel eta by phone & mail to avoid any misinformation

  7. Does anyone know how to determine what charges on the Arrival Notice are legitimate? I get anywhere from $55 to $140 dollar invoices. I have to dispute every time I get one and most of the time they wave them. It is annoying to constantly have to dispute them. If I have a container arriving in a few days they know I can’t dispute them and will not wave the BS charges as they know I am in fear of demurrage.

    • Hi JB, you mention charges ON the Arrival Notice.. What charges are you talking about..?? Is it a charge that the line charges you for sending the arrival notification or are these freight and local landside charges..?? If it is freight related charges then the charges can be verified from the booking agreement between the booking party and the line and if it is local landside charges then it is generally charged as per a published tariff of the shipping line and you should be able to verify it with the shipping line/agent at discharging port..

  8. Dear sir
    I am an importer.
    I imported goods from china, and in due course shipper sent us cargo from CMA CGM SHIP Company.
    In bill of lading wrong phone numbers and address of the shipping company of india- kolkata branch office was wrirten.
    Due to no phone number and email id i couldnt trace my cargo and their wrong information on their tracking website. I couldnt got information.
    Cma cgm cheated by not informing freetime and daily rate. I want to sue shipping companies.

    Cma cgm shipping didnt gave infoemation

    • A shipping line has made a mistake to send a arrival notice to our company(importer) one month ago. Huge extra charges applied, and they said they have no response for it.

  9. San,

    Even line is not responsible techenically , the customer went thru a loss due to demurrage and detentions paid unnecessarily in this case. You can try out award a waiver on DND to solve this case.

  10. I think you are all missing the point . . . this is not a case where the Arrival Notice was not sent . . . the Arrival Notice was sent and it was wrong. As a matter of common law principles, this is negligence. If the shipping line had not sent an Arrival Notice at all, the shipping line may have a case, protected by their exculpatory clause, but when they undertook to provide an Arrival Notice, they had a duty to do it right. It is rather like the good samaritan law . . . under the common law, a person has no duty to render aid to someone in distress and cannot be liable for damages sustained because they did not render aid, but if they do render aid and are negligent in rendering that aid, they are liable for their negligence. Nobody can propectively protect themselves from liability for their own negligenc through a clause in a contract. It all has to do with the doctrines of reasonable reliance, duty owing, breach of the duty, causation and damages. Of course, this may vary in the case is in a civil law jurisdiction, rather than a common law jurisdiction. It was not revealed where it was,so it is very difficult to apply legal principles unless one knows the jurisdiction and the law to be applied. If you disagree, and if you are not a lawyer, please first study and fully understand the common law on torts and specifically negligence and then provide an educated opinion. Otherwise, your “opinion” counts for naught. If Civil law applies in the jurisdiction and you care to reply to this, please clearly state the elements of the tort you are talkin about and state why liability of the shipping line would not apply, as a matter of law. . . . And if you quote law or regulations, as Jackie Naidoo has done above, please don’t only quote it, but give the reference to the authority upon which the remark is made, otherwise it is just an echo in a canyon and lacks credibility. Thank you very much.

  11. can some one help me on this issue…
    CARGO ARRIVAL was sent by me on 29/03/2012 mentioning that the shipment is arriving on 30/04/2012… it was a typing error as the date to be entered was 30/03/2012… the shipment got delayed & reached on 09/04/2012 where as the consignee came to release the shipment only on 30/04/2012… he never cared to check before that day whether the shipment has arrived the port… now they have paid heavy port storage as these were 18 container’s… they have filed a suit in local court claiming all this figure from us… they have already a copy of arrival notice from our company sent on 29/03/2012 with a wrong date… in short we have already sent them the arrival notice, before the shipment has reached port, but the date mentioned on it was wrong… can some one help me to save my skin, as the management will come back to me asking for an explanation & its for sure i will be fired & asked to pay this amount… will be looking forward to some valuable comments on this… rgds/pan

  12. Please clearly answer my question. Shall I suffer a huge demurrage charges because I was not noticed (no arrival notice) by carrier or can I object to this failure?

    • In some country local regulations oblige the carrier to notify the importers in writing (with evidence)

    • Hi Hariesh, it might be a bit late, but e.g. Germany requires the carrier to notify the consignee (not notify party!) upon arrival and readiness for clearance (§§ 535, 529 HGB = Code of Commerce).

  13. The consignee cannot be full absolved from the liablility of having to pay for any additional costs incidental to the case. Consignee is obligated to call for the status of the shipment and arrange for the delivery of the cargo from port. it is not the responsibility of the carrier to arrange for clearance and delivery from port.

  14. In some ports lines are collecting arrival notification fee from consignee while releasing cargo. Such cases this is paid service and liability for not sending arrival notice can be on lines a/c even though the clause is there. What is your opinion?

  15. Yes you are quite correct,that most Carriers are covered by such a clause on the B/L, however is is also in the interest of the Carrier to ensure that the ANF is sent timeously to the Consignee or Notify party for the following reasons:
    1) To ensure that the cargo is cleared timeously and avoid unnecessary costs. At times the Carrier has to disount/waive certain charges There has been cases where parties were not informed of the arrival of cargo, which had resulted in huge costs being incurred and the parties end up abandoning the cargoes which either needs to be destroyed or moved to States Warehouse. In both cases, the carrier could suffer the loss and it is not a simple task to recover these costs from the laible parties and furthermore, the chances of recovering any proceeds of the SWH sale is virtually zero .
    2) The Consignee/Notify parties Clearing Agent would require an ANF to start the clearance process.

  16. So we can conclude that the shipping not responsible and customer sometimes requesting to waive the demurrage for not sending the arrival notice, do you think it is fair not to shell out the charges of detention.

    • Hi there. I’ve got quite unusual situation: the containers from Brasil to Russia were inspected by customs service in European transhipment port. Naturally, all seals were changed and part of the goods were repacked. We, as a consignee and notify party, didn’t get any info from carrier and was obliged to pass numerous customs inspection at the port of destination (new seals? additional goods, not mentioned in B/L?) and now we’ve been charged by the same carrier for demurrage and storage. Any thoughts?


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