9 June, 2017
The claim arose out of damage to a cargo of large unpackaged pieces of tuna stuffed in three refrigerated containers, carried onboard the Maersk Tangier. The tuna was damaged during transit.
The court was asked to consider the following preliminary issues:
- Were the Hague-Visby Rules compulsorily applicable?
- What is a ‘unit’ for the purposes of the Hague Rules and the Hague-Visby Rules?
What is required for the number of packages or units to be sufficiently enumerated for the purposes of Article IV.5(c) (“Where a container, pallet or similar article of transport is used to consolidate goods, the number of packages or units enumerated in the bill of lading as packed in such article of transport shall be deemed the number of packages or units for the purpose of this paragraph as far as these packages or units are concerned.”)?
Does each package have its own limit, or are the limits aggregated?
Held (Andrew Baker J):
The contracts of carriage initially contemplated the issue of bills of lading, but waybills were issued instead, to prevent further delays at the discharge port. Notwithstanding that a waybill was not a bill of lading for the purposes of the Hague-Visby Rules, the Rules were compulsorily applicable. The relevant question was not whether a bill of lading was actually issued, but whether the issue of a bill was contemplated under the terms of the contract. Where a waybill was issued in place of a bill of lading, the contract was ‘covered by a bill of lading’ for the purposes of the Rules.
The individual tuna pieces were 'units'. The relevant question was whether the individual physical items had been packaged together. If they had, the individual items were not units, but instead formed part of a single package. If not, each physical item was a ‘unit’. Here they had not been packaged together. A container did not constitute a 'package'.
The decision of the Federal Court of Australia in El Greco v. Mediterranean Shipping should not be followed. Article IV.5(c) merely requires that the number of packages or units inside the container is accurately stated in the bill of lading. Here, the waybills stated that the containers contained a certain number of pieces of tuna. Each piece of tuna was in fact a ‘unit’. The waybills therefore accurately enumerated the number of units in the containers.
Each package / unit has its own limit, with no aggregation.
(Kyokuyo Co Ltd v AP Moller-Maersk AS, The Maersk Tangier  EWHC 654 (Comm))
For further information, please contact:
Andrew Rigden Green , Partner, Stephenson Harwood