Marine Surveyors Lexicon


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Carrier’s Liability Acts (ocean)

These include:
  • Fire Statute -1851 - U.S. statute that provides no vessel owner or bareboat charterer can be held liable for any loss or damage to cargo on board the vessel by reason of fire on board, unless the fire has been caused by the design or neglect of the shipowner or bareboat charterer.

  • Limitation Of Liability -1851 - The U.S. Limitation Act, a companion to the Fire Statute, allows a shipowner or bareboat charterer of a vessel to limit its liability for any loss, damage or personal injury caused by the vessel to the value of the vessel as long as the loss or damage occurred without the privity or knowledge of the owner or bareboat charterer. Liability can be limited to the value of the vessel at the end of the voyage and the pending freight. In the case of loss of life or personal injury caused by a seagoing vessel, the minimum limitation value of the vessel is $60 per gross ton.

  • Harter Act – 1893 - U.S. statute that voids clauses in ocean bills of lading which attempt to relieve the vessel owner of liability for loss or damage to cargo arising from negligence in loading, stowage, care and proper delivery or clauses that attempt to avoid or lessen the vessel owner’s obligations to exercise due diligence to provide a seaworthy vessel and crew for the carriage and delivery of cargo. It relieves a vessel owner of liability for errors in navigation or management of the vessel if the owner exercises due diligence to make the vessel in all respects seaworthy. The Harter Act still applies to carriage of goods not subject to COGSA, including the period before loading and after discharge. It applies to carriage between U.S. ports (e.g. U.S. mainland to / from Hawaii and/or Alaska) unless the bill of lading expressly makes COGSA applicable to such shipments.

  • Hague Rules – 1922 - International rules based essentially on the U.S. Harter Act for the regulation of bills of lading in the carriage of goods by sea. The rules were recommended to the governments of all the maritime nations for adoption as the basis for their various carriage of goods by sea acts. The U.S. adopted the Hague Rules with some minor changes in 1936 as the "U.S. Carriage of Goods by Sea Act" (COGSA).

  • Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA) - 1936 - U.S. statute adopting the Hague Rules. It applies to bills of lading covering ocean carriage of goods between U.S. ports and foreign ports and sets forth the responsibilities, defenses, and immunities of carriers and vessel owners for loss of or damage to cargo. It provides for a minimum carrier / ship liability of $500 per package (or customary freight unit if applicable) and for a one year time limit from the date of delivery for filing suit against the carrier and ship.

  • Hague-Visby Rules – 1968 - Amendment to the 1922 Hague Rules brought about by a development in transportation that could not have been foreseen in 1922 - containerization. The Visby amendment provides that when a container, pallet or similar article of transport is used to consolidate cargo, the number of packages or units enumerated in the Bill of Lading shall be deemed to be the number of packages or units shipped. It also increased the carrier’s package liability limit from 100 pounds sterling to 10,000 French Francs (or equivalent).

  • Hamburg Rules – 1978 - Proposal by the United Nations conference on Trade and Development (in Hamburg) to amend the Hague Rules in their entirety. The proposal would make the carrier liable for all damage resulting to cargo regardless of cause and without limitation while the goods were in the care & custody of the carrier. The Hamburg Rules would come into effect among signatory countries when approved by 20 of those countries. Traditional shipowning countries such as England and the U.S. are opposed to the Rules.

  • Pomerene Act - Also known as the U.S. Federal Bill of Lading Act of 1916 - It establishes the requirements for the issuance of ocean bills of lading in the U.S.