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Whether the responsibility for cargo ops rests with owners or charterers - depends on the clause

NYPE Inter Club Agreement makes charterer 100% liable for claims arising out of ‘loading, stowage, lashing, discharge and storage’ unless responsibility for such is passed back to the Master in which case charterers and owners will share the burden 50-50. Question in The Maria [2018] (where improper loading was the case of damage) was whether the words - “Stevedores appointed and paid by Charterers……to remain under the direction of the Master who will be responsible for proper stowage and seaworthiness……” are sufficient to transfer the responsibility for cargo operations ‘back’ to Master.

Commercial court, whilst disagreeing with the Arbitration Tribunal, held that the relevant clause resulted in a ‘partial transfer’ only, i.e. for ‘stowage’ and ‘stowage related unseaworthiness’.

For the 50-50 part to kick in, transfer of full responsibilities was needed. Hence charterers were 100% liable for the cargo claim as they had taken on responsibility for loading through a typical transfer of responsibility clause - “…...charterers are to load, stow......the cargo at their expense under the supervision of the Captain…..” Had this clause read as “under the responsibility of Captain’ instead of "supervison of captain" the outcome would have been different.

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