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‘Management of ship’ and ‘management of cargo’ are not the same

As regards duty of the master for the purposes of Hague rules defence available to ship owners for loss/damage caused by errors in management of the ship, courts have always drawn a distinction between ‘management of ship’ and ‘management of cargo’. No defence being available to shipowner for errors in the latter. Difficulties may arise in determining which acts fall into which category, as in The Privocean [2018].

The master required that cargo in a hold be strapped for stability reasons (two holds were slack), resulting in charterers incurring a $0.4m bill. Alternative proposals by charterers such as using ballast or altering the stowage plan, through which adequate stability could be achieved, were rejected. C/P had a clause paramount incorporated thus being subject to Hague rules, Art.IV r.2(a) of which provides for a defence to shipowners for losses/damage arising out of error in management of the ship. So did this encompass the acts of the Master in this case?

It was held that primary nature of the acts which caused the loss were ones which related to ship management in the sense of stability, i.e. stemming a want of care of the vessel which had an effect on the cargo. Shipowner was thus exempted from liability.

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