What is Free Astray?

Free Astray refers to a cargo shipment that has been wrongly shipped and/or unloaded to a destination that is then picked up and shipped to the correct end destination with no charges levied on the shipper by the transporter. This situation is usually only applicable when the transporter makes a mistake and sends cargo to the wrong destination and hence has to make good on his/her obligation to deliver cargo to the intended consignee at their own costs.

The concept of free astray does not get invoked when the shipper identifies the wrong consignee on shipping documents and the cargo is delivered to the wrong receiver due to no fault of the transporter or carrier.

Why does cargo get delivered wrongly?

Cargo can be mistakenly segregated by the carrier’s warehouse operators at terminals or bulking handling centres. In some cases, operators may slap the wrong identifying stickers to pallets that result in pallets being routed wrongly. In general, human error is usually the cause for cargo getting delivered wrongly.

Who is responsible for damages on free astray cargo?

The freight forwarder has the obligation towards the shipper to ensure that cargo is safely delivered from point A to point B. In the case of free astray shipments, the cargo has inadvertently ended up at point C. The transporter still has the obligation and liability to deliver the cargo to point B, unless the shipper releases the obligation. Hence, the freight forwarder who received the cargo at point A will be liable for all damages to the cargo until the cargo is delivered to point C, as per the contract of carriage.

What is the difference between free astray and dead-head?

Free astray and dead-head are concepts that often appear together. Dead-head movement refers to carrier/transporter movement where no cargo is actually being carried or transported. This arises because in a free astray situation, carriers have to urgently use transportation means to ship the cargo as quickly as possible to the correct destination in order to meet contractual obligations to the shipper. Hence, they would not always be able to use optimised routes that avoid freightless movements of transport.

Things to note about free astray shipments:

Shippers/Consignees need to take note of several important points:

  1. Best to do a proactive check to ensure that storage conditions were suitable for the cargo at the unintended port
  2. Check the condition of the cargo while it sits at the unintended location, to ascertain whether a replacement shipment is necessary
  3. Ensure that the security of the cargo was not compromised at the unintended port
  4. If using Free Trade Agreements that do not allow non-direct shipments, be aware that the FTAs benefits may no longer be claimable



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