New BIFA Trading Conditions 2017 explained

The British International Freight Association (BIFA), the trade association for UK freight forwarding and logistics companies, has updated its Standard Trading Conditions to take into account new SOLAS rules and other issues. International Forwarding Director Roy Baker outlines five main changes for our customers.

International Forwarding Limited (IFL) trades under the conditions of the British International Freight Association for all international traffic. These conditions are recognised by the English courts and are approved by the Office of Fair Trading. Most freight forwarders in the UK have adopted them and the terms clearly set out the rights and obligations of both customer and forwarder.

Following an extensive review to take account of changes in the law, technological advances, industry practice and so on, the latest update to the BIFA conditions, known as the 2017 Edition, has now superseded the previous 2005 Edition. The 2017 Edition applies to all transactions entered into by International Forwarding since 1 October 2017.

Here are the main changes our customers need to be aware of:

  1. Customers must now provide an accurate gross weight for any container entrusted to the forwarder for despatch by sea freight. This gross weight comprises the weight of the goods loaded to the container plus the tare (unladen) weight of the container, and is a legal requirement introduced by the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) from 1 July 2016. You can read more on the new SOLAS rules here.
  2. In the event of payment default by a customer the forwarder can now take action to recover all monies owed and not just the overdue debt.
  3. If the forwarder has no option other than to seize goods in the event of payment default, known as a lien, the forwarder can now sell the goods within 21 days instead of the previous 28-day limit. This brings the forwarding industry into line with the trading conditions relating to lien applied by other types of carrier.
  4. The new Union Customs Code introduced from 1 May 2016 strengthens the rules relating to the direct and indirect representation roles of a forwarder acting on behalf of a customer with regard to HM Revenue & Customs matters. The amended BIFA conditions reflect these changes and, in particular, clarify the direct representative role. When the forwarder acts as a direct representative the customer remains responsible for any Customs duties, taxes and other charges. When the forwarder acts as an indirect representative, however, Customs has the right to collect from him any duties, taxes and other charges.
  5. All previous BIFA conditions have stated that English law is the governing jurisdiction but for the first time the 2017 Edition allows the parties to resolve disputes by arbitration. This recognises the increasing involvement of forwarders in cross-border trades where one or more of the countries does not accept the judgements of English courts.

Further help and information

You can find the full set of BIFA (2017 Edition) Standard Trading Conditions here.

International Forwarding’s director Roy Baker will be pleased to answer any questions regarding BIFA trading conditions in general and, in particular, the 2017 amendments.