On October 31, 2017, Maersk Line Co., Ltd. (“Maersk”) and Tianjin Branch of Jincheng International Logistics Service Co., Ltd. (“Jincheng Tianjin Branch”) signed the Compensation Grace Agreement. According to the agreement, due to the negligence of Jincheng Tianjin Branch, two sets of original bills of lading, which were not subject matter of the case, were printed, so the Booking Agency Agreement between Maersk and Jincheng Tianjin Branch should be terminated immediately. However, since no actual damage was caused, Maersk was willing to provide Jincheng Tianjin Branch with a grace period of 6 months. Jincheng Tianjin Branch would pay the container demurrages under 3 bills of lading to Maersk by March 18, 2018, of which the demurrage under the first bill of lading was USD 85,961.75, and the demurrage under the second bill of lading was USD 365,42.50. As the cargo under the third bill of lading had not been picked up by anyone after it was unloaded to Doha, Qatar on March 22, 2017, the demurrage had not been finalized. For the maritime cargo transport under the first two bills of lading, a third party booked space from Maersk on behalf of the shipper. For the maritime cargo transport under the third bill of lading, another third party, Pan Asia Company, booked space from Maersk. Maersk had not claimed the expenses under the first two bills of lading from the third party. The third party was not a related party of Jincheng Tianjin Branch, and had not been authorized to enter into a debt obligation contract with Jincheng Tianjin Branch for the related expenses incurred under the two bills of lading. Maersk sued and claimed the aforesaid expenses from Jincheng Tianjin Branch, and Jincheng Tianjin Branch requested cancellation of the agreement on the grounds that the agreement was obviously unfair.
Tianjin Maritime Court made the judgment that the claims of the plaintiff Maersk Line Co., Ltd. were rejected.
At present, about 90% of the traded commodities in the world are transported by sea, and a healthy and orderly maritime transport environment is of great significance to the in-depth implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative. In this case, by comprehensively examining whether the content of the contract is obviously unfair and the effectiveness of the contract, and fully applying the legal principle of fairness, the Court accurately determined whether the rights and obligations of the parties in the commercial relationship are unequal, and effectively safeguarded the principle of fairness that should be followed in foreign-related economic activities. This case has a positive significance for guiding the “Belt and Road” initiative participants to operate honestly and legally, and for maintaining good order of the maritime transport market.