IMB identifies suspect scrap shipments

  • 8 March 2010

The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has uncovered a series of recent suspicious transactions in the scrap steel trade.

Whilst conducting due diligence on behalf of members, the Bureau identified a number of trade documents relating to shipments that appear not to have taken place at all. The purported shipments cover containerised cargoes of steel scrap originating in both South America and Northern Europe, bound for Asian ports.

The IMB was able to quickly ascertain that neither the stated vessels nor containers were at the ports of loading on the stated dates.

IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan commented:  “These recent examples have shown that potential fraudsters are able to produce documentation that, on face-value, appears convincing. In these cases, the names of vessels that regularly ply their trade in the region have been used along with an in-demand commodity that is regularly shipped out of the purported countries of origin. A number of checks with third parties, however, quickly established that it was impossible for the cargo to have been loaded on board.”

IMB checks established that the vessels named on the documentation did regularly call at the stated ports, though happened to be elsewhere at the alleged time of loading. This suggests that whoever is responsible for producing these documents has some knowledge of shipping in the region or, at least, access to information of vessel schedules. Furthermore, all of the container numbers used in the documentation are genuine and related to real containers.

IMB checks, however, confirmed that none of them were at the stated port of loading and, indeed, were in a number of different world ports, making it impossible for them to have been used in the stated consignment.

Mr Mukundan continued: “These cases involve a complex and persuasive set of supporting documents but they were undermined by a number of simple checks that alerted our members to irregularities. These checks save time and money and are of use to all those in the legitimate trade.”

The IMB recommends that stringent due diligence checks are undertaken on all parties involved in any major transaction, even those parties with established trading records. At the very least, banks and buyers should be establish that the proposed beneficiaries are able to provide the noted commodity at the stated price.