(Dustin Godfrey / Burnaby Beacon)

Burnaby firm Golden Trust facing $6.2M in lawsuits over plastic shipments to Thailand

Golden Trust is being sued for US$3.1 million in Federal Court by Hapag-Lloyd, while Yang Ming is suing in BC Supreme Court for US$1.5 mil.

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November 21, 2022 | 5:00 am

Burnaby firm Golden Trust Trading is being sued for millions of dollars by two separate shipping companies claiming it was responsible for docking fees in Thailand for plastic it had reportedly exported to the country.

Hapag-Lloyd Aktiengesellschaft is suing Golden Trust in Federal Court after allegedly incurring US$3.1 million in fees for demurrage, storage, and re-export after 33 shipping containers were stuck in Thailand’s ports over environmental import standards issues.

Yang Ming Shipping, meanwhile, is suing the firm in the BC Supreme Court after, the company claims, it incurred US$1.5 million in storage fees in Thailand when its containers were seized by Thai customs.

Together, they combine for about C$6.2 million in claims. None of the claims have been proven in court.

Global waste politics

According to Canada’s Business Registries, Golden Trust Trading is an active business created in 2009 with a registered office location in Burnaby.

However, the company appears to have removed its website from the internet, leaving only a few details on third-party websites.

According to Panjiva, a market research firm owned by S&P Global, plastics are a major portion of what Golden Trust ships.

Both cases reportedly occurred in 2019, as Asian countries began blocking waste exported to their ports, often against Canadian law, and even sent large shipments back to Vancouver.

A Nov. 16, 2022 decision in the Hapag-Lloyd case, penned by federal court Justice Sébastien Grammond, denied Golden Trust’s application to extend its time for filing a statement of defence.

In the decision, Grammond wrote that Hapag-Lloyd was contracted by Golden Trust to carry 33 shipping containers of waste paper and plastic film from Vancouver to Bangkok, Thailand in 2019.

“Due to a change in Thailand’s environmental import standards, the contents of the containers could not be imported into that country,” Grammond wrote.

“Hapag-Lloyd claims that the containers remained in the port unclaimed for 782 days until it was able to re-export 30 of the 33 containers. According to Hapag-Lloyd, the other three containers are still in Thailand and continue to incur costs.”

Golden Trust accused of misrepresenting to Yang Ming

And according to a March 15, 2021 statement of civil claim filed by Yang Ming, that shipping firm was similarly contracted in 2019 to ship 39 containers to Thailand.

But upon arrival, in early 2019, no one showed up at the ports to claim the shipment, according to the company.

“The defendant represented that the containers being shipped contained bales of plastic as set out in the bills of lading,” reads the notice of claim.

But in May 2019, Yang Ming claims, it was “apprised of the fact that the containers were seized by the Thailand Customs. Thailand Customs advised that the cargo descriptions were not as described in the bills of lading and actually contained plastic scrap.”

As a result, Thailand Customs allegedly ordered that the containers be auctioned off, but up to that point, the containers had reportedly accrued fees of US$1.45 million, or C$1.83 million.

Yang Ming is seeking a return of that C$1.83 million, along with interest and further costs.

The firm claimed Golden Trust had fraudulently or negligently misrepresented the contents of the containers it had contracted Yang Ming to ship and that the company had misrepresented that it had a receiver in Thailand to pick up the shipment.

Jurisdictional questions

On March 31, 2021, Golden Trust responded to the claim, denying all facts alleged in the original lawsuit, while also claiming the court did not have jurisdiction or ought not to exercise its jurisdiction over the case.

In notices of application, filed on Sept. 1 and Sept. 2 of this year, Golden Trust elaborated on the jurisdictional claims, saying a section of the contract between the two parties provided that any claim “shall be governed by the law of England and determined in the English courts.”

Alternatively, Golden Trust argued that the jurisdiction should fall in the US, the country in which the port the shipping containers in question were loaded, or in Thailand, where they were to land.

Finally, Golden Trust argued that Yang Ming Shipping (Canada), could not sue Golden Trust when it was, in fact, the shipping firm’s principal corporation, Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation, that engaged in the contract with Golden Trust.

In its response to the applications filed on Sept. 22, Yang Ming claimed that the jurisdiction claims relied on an outdated contract and, the updated contract stated that “any action by the carrier to enforce any provision of this bill may be brought before any court of competent jurisdiction at the option of the carrier.”

Yang Ming also noted that the parties were supposed to have completed discovery examinations by Sept. 30 of this year, and Yang Ming claimed it repeatedly reached out to Golden Trust to set up a date.

“The defendant ignored the inquiries of the counsel for the plaintiff and instead filed this application to dismiss,” Yang Ming wrote. “Despite the continued requests of the plaintiff, the defendant has refused to attend … an examination for discovery prior to the end of September.”

On Nov. 8 Yang Ming filed its own notice of application seeking an order compelling Golden Trust to schedule discovery examinations within 30 days. That application was set to be heard on Nov. 28, according to Court Services Online.

Late to filing a defence

The Hapag-Lloyd case appears to mirror the turbulent legal process in the Yang Ming case.

According to the Federal Court decision, Hapag-Lloyd filed its claim on March 18, 2022, and Golden Trust attempted to file a statement of defence on Aug. 31, missing the deadline by more than four months.

As such, the filing wasn’t accepted by the court’s registry, and Hapag Lloyd filed a motion for a default judgment in its favour on Sept. 21. The following day, Golden Trust filed its response to the motion, along with an application seeking an extension for its original statement of defence.

The matter of the default judgment has been suspended while the application for an extension is considered.

In the decision, Grammond found that Golden Trust’s argument that it did, indeed, intend to pursue the matter is “weak at best,” noting that the firm not only failed to file a statement of defence on time but also that it didn’t file a notice of intent to respond “and failed to provide opposing counsel with any updates.”

“To this day, it has not even filed a notice of appearance. The failure to take any steps to defend the action until confronted with a motion for default judgment is more compatible with an intention to delay the proceeding than with an intention to defend the action,” Grammond wrote.

Beyond that, Grammond had to consider whether Golden Trust’s defence has merit—but Grammond stated that Golden Trust’s arguments “are entirely devoid of merit.”

When Golden Trust argued that the court lacks jurisdiction because a section of the agreement between the two firms assigned “exclusive jurisdiction to the courts of Hamburg, Germany,” Grammond noted that the same section “explicitly provides the carrier (Hapag-Lloyd) with the option of filing a suit either in Hamburg or at the place of the business of the shipper (Golden Trust).”

“It is entirely disingenuous to argue a part of section 24 while omitting another part of the same provision,” Grammond wrote.

Grammond also found in Hapag-Lloyd’s favour in the final two criteria for denying the extension, including that Hapag-Lloyd would experience prejudice from an extension and that Golden Trust did not have “any valid reason to explain the delay in submitting its statement of defence.”

The application for a default judgment has not yet been heard.

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Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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