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Danish Carrier Liable for Robbery of Salted Fish in Italy

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Legal news
calendar 2 July 2014
globus Denmark

A carriage of salted fish was robbed during a rest at an unguarded pull-in in Italy. The carrier was found responsible for planning the route and choosing safe parking for rest stops. As the carrier was not able to prove that the robbery had been unavoidable, the carrier had to compensate the freight forwarder for his loss. This was decided by the Danish Maritime and Commercial High Court.

A Danish carrier had been hired by a Danish freight forwarder to transport a load of Norwegian salted fish to Greece. The carrier drove through Italy in order to board a ferry that was to leave from Bari in Southern Italy and arrive in Patras in Greece. On the way through Southern Italy the driver had to rest in order to comply with regulations on driving times and rest periods, and therefore he stopped at a pull-in to sleep in the cabin of the truck. In the middle of the night the driver was suddenly awoken by three knife-carrying men, who forced him out of the cabin of the truck and drove away with the car and all the salted fish. Later the truck was found – but it was empty.

In a Norwegian court case, the Danish freight forwarder was ordered to compensate the losses, but subsequently the freight forwarder filed recourse proceedings in Denmark against the carrier in order to be compensated for the loss.

The safety instructions were missing

The freight forwarder had in connection with previous bookings of carriages given the carrier specific safety instructions when goods were to be transported to Italy. However, in this specific case the carrier had not received such instructions. Due to the fact that the ferry from South Italy had been booked by the freight forwarder, the carrier argued that he had been forced to drive through a high risk area.

The freight forwarder disagreed and stated that the carrier – as a professional – should have known that Italy is a high risk area as regards to theft. In addition, the freight forwarder thought it would be self-evident that driving through Italy with valuable goods would be just as risky as driving to Italy.

The parking area was not a "safe parking area"

The carrier rested at a pull-in that was not guarded and was not listed as a “safe parking area”. However, the area had a gas station and the space was thoroughly lit. It was under surveillance round the clock and it was filled with other cars. The pull-in was adjacent to the highway.

If the carrier were to have chosen a “safe parking area”, he had to have stopped 244 kilometers earlier on the route. In order to comply with regulations in respect of driving times and rest periods, the carrier could not have chosen to proceed until the next secured parking area.

A surveyor explained that it was far from certain that the other parking areas in that region were safer. The only four parking areas that were certified as “safe” were all in Northern Italy. Furthermore, the surveyor found that the robbers must have had that specific load targeted, as they went directly for the salted fish in spite of the fact that there were 15 other vehicles parked in the same parking area. Because of the targeting, the surveyor found that the robbery could have been carried out regardless of the choice of parking area.

The Maritime and Commercial High Court: Not proven that the robbery had been unavoidable

The Maritime and Commercial High Court found that it is common knowledge that carriages of salted fish are very exposed to robbery in Italy. Therefore it had no significance that the freight forwarder had not issued safety instructions prior to the carriage. Likewise, the problem concerning compliance with regulations in respect of driving times and rest periods was of no relevance. Due to the fact that the freight forwarder had only booked the ferry and had not participated in planning the route, the carrier was overall responsible for planning the route in a way that ensured that the driver could rest at a safe parking area.

The court did not find that it had been proven that the robbers had targeted the load of salted fish and that the robbery thereby had been unavoidable.

The carrier was obliged to pay 694.980 NOK in compensation to the freight forwarder.

IUNO’s opinion

This judgment emphasizes how difficult it can be for a carrier to avoid liability for theft or even robbery of goods.

It is common knowledge in the transport business that Italy is a high risk area – especially when carrying salted fish. The carrier has to plan very carefully when choosing parking areas or the like. The Danish courts do not take into account that it can be difficult to combine safe parking with compliance of regulations in respect of driving times and rest periods. Nor do the courts take into account whether a loss is due to an armed robbery or merely theft.

This ruling makes it clear that a carrier cannot rely on “lack of instructions” from the freight forwarder. A carrier must know that Italy is a high risk area for theft and robbery of salted fish, and the carrier himself has to take all necessary safety precautions.

[Maritime and Commercial High Court judgement of 14 March 2014. Case No. H-14-13]

A Danish carrier had been hired by a Danish freight forwarder to transport a load of Norwegian salted fish to Greece. The carrier drove through Italy in order to board a ferry that was to leave from Bari in Southern Italy and arrive in Patras in Greece. On the way through Southern Italy the driver had to rest in order to comply with regulations on driving times and rest periods, and therefore he stopped at a pull-in to sleep in the cabin of the truck. In the middle of the night the driver was suddenly awoken by three knife-carrying men, who forced him out of the cabin of the truck and drove away with the car and all the salted fish. Later the truck was found – but it was empty.

In a Norwegian court case, the Danish freight forwarder was ordered to compensate the losses, but subsequently the freight forwarder filed recourse proceedings in Denmark against the carrier in order to be compensated for the loss.

The safety instructions were missing

The freight forwarder had in connection with previous bookings of carriages given the carrier specific safety instructions when goods were to be transported to Italy. However, in this specific case the carrier had not received such instructions. Due to the fact that the ferry from South Italy had been booked by the freight forwarder, the carrier argued that he had been forced to drive through a high risk area.

The freight forwarder disagreed and stated that the carrier – as a professional – should have known that Italy is a high risk area as regards to theft. In addition, the freight forwarder thought it would be self-evident that driving through Italy with valuable goods would be just as risky as driving to Italy.

The parking area was not a "safe parking area"

The carrier rested at a pull-in that was not guarded and was not listed as a “safe parking area”. However, the area had a gas station and the space was thoroughly lit. It was under surveillance round the clock and it was filled with other cars. The pull-in was adjacent to the highway.

If the carrier were to have chosen a “safe parking area”, he had to have stopped 244 kilometers earlier on the route. In order to comply with regulations in respect of driving times and rest periods, the carrier could not have chosen to proceed until the next secured parking area.

A surveyor explained that it was far from certain that the other parking areas in that region were safer. The only four parking areas that were certified as “safe” were all in Northern Italy. Furthermore, the surveyor found that the robbers must have had that specific load targeted, as they went directly for the salted fish in spite of the fact that there were 15 other vehicles parked in the same parking area. Because of the targeting, the surveyor found that the robbery could have been carried out regardless of the choice of parking area.

The Maritime and Commercial High Court: Not proven that the robbery had been unavoidable

The Maritime and Commercial High Court found that it is common knowledge that carriages of salted fish are very exposed to robbery in Italy. Therefore it had no significance that the freight forwarder had not issued safety instructions prior to the carriage. Likewise, the problem concerning compliance with regulations in respect of driving times and rest periods was of no relevance. Due to the fact that the freight forwarder had only booked the ferry and had not participated in planning the route, the carrier was overall responsible for planning the route in a way that ensured that the driver could rest at a safe parking area.

The court did not find that it had been proven that the robbers had targeted the load of salted fish and that the robbery thereby had been unavoidable.

The carrier was obliged to pay 694.980 NOK in compensation to the freight forwarder.

IUNO’s opinion

This judgment emphasizes how difficult it can be for a carrier to avoid liability for theft or even robbery of goods.

It is common knowledge in the transport business that Italy is a high risk area – especially when carrying salted fish. The carrier has to plan very carefully when choosing parking areas or the like. The Danish courts do not take into account that it can be difficult to combine safe parking with compliance of regulations in respect of driving times and rest periods. Nor do the courts take into account whether a loss is due to an armed robbery or merely theft.

This ruling makes it clear that a carrier cannot rely on “lack of instructions” from the freight forwarder. A carrier must know that Italy is a high risk area for theft and robbery of salted fish, and the carrier himself has to take all necessary safety precautions.

[Maritime and Commercial High Court judgement of 14 March 2014. Case No. H-14-13]

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