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Cargo damaged by moisture - owners liable for choice of route?

Choice of route can affect how cargo is to be cared for, so can owners be held liable for choosing one over the other? In The Santa Isabella [2019], owners took a route S of Chile from Mexico to S Africa instead of through the Panama Canal and on arrival maize was found damaged. Demurrage and associated expenses totaled $858k.

Cause of spoilage of cargo was wetting by condensation (ship's sweat). Voyage charterers alleged that cargo damage was caused by owners' breach of C/P - not taking the customary & less riskier route; and failure to ventilate cargo.

As per the court, when choosing a route, cargo care is a relevant factor but owners need not undertake a refined analysis of climatic conditions. Infact data suggested that majority of vsls had taken the same route. As for ventilation, evidence suggested that throughout the voyage it had not taken place after 1600 until 0900 hrs. Guidance from P&I clubs were referred to in coming to the conclusion that ventilation is effective in preventing sweat damage and that it should also be carried out at night. Owners had thus failed to care for the cargo. As regards infestation inspite of holds being fumigated, owners were held liable for failure to adequately clean the deck, masts etc. which had caused reinfestation.

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