Who is a ship agent?
The person entrusted with provisioning or representing the vessel in the port in which it may be found. Hence, whether acting as agent of the owner of the vessel or as agent of the charterer, he will be considered as the ship agent and may be held liable as such, as long as he is the one that provisions or represents the vessel. (Macondray & Co., Inc. v. Provident Insurance Corp, G.R. No. 154305, Dec. 9, 2004)
What are the powers, functions, and liabilities of ship agents?
1. Indemnity for expenses incurred for ship’s benefit.
2. Discharge of captain and/or crew members. The following are the rules observed by the ship agent:
a. Captain and/or crew member’s contract not for a definite period or voyage:
i. Before vessel sets out to sea: Ship agent at his discretion may discharge the captain and members of the crew. Ship agent must pay captain and/or crew members salaries earned according to their contracts, and without any indemnity whatsoever, unless there is an expressed agreement;
ii. During voyage: Captain and/or crew member shall receive salary until return to the port where contract was made. Article 637 of the Code of Commerce enumerates the just causes for discharge.
b. Where captain and members of the crew’s contracts with ship agent be for a definite period or voyage:
i. Captain and/or crew members may not be discharged until after the fulfillment of their contracts, except by reason of insubordination in serious matters, robbery, theft, habitual drunkenness, or damage caused to the vessel or to its cargo through malice or manifest or proven negligence. (Art. 605, Code of Commerce)
ii. If the captain should be the vessel’s co-owner, he may not be discharged unless ship agent returns his amount of interest therein. In the absence of agreement between the parties, interest shall be appraised by experts appointed in the manner established by civil procedure.