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Division of responsibilities related to cargo operations between charterers and owners

In dry trade it is common to see C/P clauses where all aspects of cargo operations are carried out under Master’s supervision but under the responsibility of a 3rd party appointed by the charterer. Situations may arise in practice where there are doubts as to who is ultimately controlling the operations, as in The BBC Spring [2022] where an expensive yacht got damaged during discharging.

Charterers had appointed a loading master for discharging the yacht and had also supplied hoisting belts. A lift plan was drawn up and emailed to the vessel. It was mentioned that the loading master will supervise the operations. A day before scheduled discharging, there was a toolbox talk between the loading master and crew. The yacht fell down on deck during unloading. As per crew’s SOF, all operations, including hoisting was carried out as per the commands given by the loading master. However, the loading master’s statement was that the Captain insisted during the opening toolbox talk that the ship staff should take over the discharging operations to which the loading master did not object, and that this shifted the responsibility for damage to the ship owner.

Without further evidence, the Dutch Court was inclined to go with the crew’ statements. It also questioned as to why the loading master did not raise a protest or inform the owners and charterers about the crew’s decision to deviate from their duty as mentioned in the charterparty, which was only to supervise and not be responsible for cargo operations. It was decided based on evidence that the loading master, and hence the charterers retained control of the operations here, and hence responsible for the cargo damage.

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Jul 09, 2023

Thanks for posting for updating knowledge of maritime law. But, what was the root cause of damage to the yacht??


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