Good morning to Captain and crew alike, and welcome to The Admiralty Docket. IMG_2285

Importers and exporters often ask,

What are a steamship line’s responsibilities to take care of cargo in its custody? Will I be able to recover if my cargo is lost or damaged?

Generally, under the Hague Rules an ocean common carrier has two types of duties. First, the carrier must exercise due diligence before and at the beginning of the voyage to make the ship seaworthy, to properly man, equip, and supply the ship, and to make the holds fit and safe for cargo. If the carrier can show that it exercised due diligence to make the ship seaworthy, it can escape liability for cargo damage or loss due to unseaworthiness of the vessel.

Second, the carrier must properly and carefully load, handle, stow, carry, keep, care for, and discharge the cargo. However, the law provides a long list of exceptions, or defenses, to the duty to properly care for the cargo. The list of exceptions provides that the carrier will not be responsible for act, neglect, or default of the master, mariner, pilot or the servants of the carrier in the navigation or in the management of the ship; will not be responsible for fire, unless caused by the actual fault or privity of the carrier; will not be responsible for perils, dangers and accidents of the sea; will not be responsible for act of God; will not be responsible for act of War; will not be responsible for act of public enemies; will not be responsible for arrest or restraint of princes, rulers or people, or seizure under legal process; will not be responsible for quarantine restrictions; will not be responsible for act or omission of the shipper; will not be responsible for strikes or lockouts, or stoppage or restraint of labor; will not be responsible for riots and civil commotions; will not be responsible for saving or attempting to save life or property at sea; will not be responsible for wastage in bulk or weight; will not be responsible for loss arising from inherent defect of the goods; will not be responsible for insufficiency of packing; will not be responsible for insufficiency of marks; will not be responsible for latent defects not discoverable by due diligence; will not be responsible for any other cause arising without the actual fault or privity of the carrier.

After reviewing the exceptions to an ocean carrier’s responsibility, the next question is predictable. “Mr. Cooper, how much would it cost me to buy insurance on the cargo?”

More next week on The Admiralty Docket. Until then, remember your rights and responsibilities may change as you approach the shore and may God Almighty grant you pleasant sailing.

If you have a question regarding admiralty and maritime law, please call or Email Us today for a free, confidential consultation with no obligation.

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From our law office in Mount Pleasant, John Hughes Cooper, P.C. handles admiralty law and maritime law cases throughout coastal South Carolina (the Lowcountry), the Pee Dee region, communities surrounding Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, and elsewhere in the Southeast. The communities we serve include Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Isle of Palms, Sullivan's Island, Georgetown, Beaufort, Hilton Head, North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, Edisto Island, Walterboro, Pawley's Island, Murrells Inlet, Little River, Conway, Columbia, Florence, Charleston County, Georgetown County, Berkeley County, Beaufort County, Horry County, Jasper County and Colleton County.

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