Rena's lost cargo still costs owner

Last updated 12:26 18/03/2014

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A timber exporter which lost a shipment on the doomed Rena has been told by the High Court it must still pay its $100,000 freight bill.

Resources New Zealand Ltd had argued it was "unjust" to make it pay Mediterranean Shipping (MSC), given its sawn timber did not make it from Napier to its markets in the Middle East.

Its shipment made it only to the Bay of Plenty, where the Rena ran aground on Astrolabe Reef in October 2011. The battered wreck remains on the reef.

Resources NZ had not established it should not pay the $101,306.26 MSC invoice, a finding in the High Court in Auckland by Associate Judge David Abbott said.

MSC had said freight costs were due once the carrier had received the goods.

It confirmed that in early 2012, when Resources NZ queried whether it still applied, given the Rena had sunk.

MSC took legal action demanding the money in July last year, 21 months after loading the timber.

Resources NZ said it disputed the debt, as the contract implied the goods would be delivered safely.

Associate Judge Abbott said the contract was clear and unambiguous. Those involved were commercial parties familiar with such contracts, and there was no suggestion the contract was not entered into freely.

It was clear freight was payable, he said.

Risks such as the ship sinking were known, as was the ability to protect against such losses with insurance.

"The circumstances of the grounding of MV Rena and loss of its cargo were unfortunate, but do not make this transaction, or the claim for freight and the 'no set-off' clause extraordinary, so as to make it unfair to require Resources NZ to adhere to the terms of the contract."

Associate Judge Abbott ordered Resources NZ to pay MSC its costs.

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- Fairfax Media

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