Glovertown Shipyards Ltd. v. Hickey

In Ship Building and Repair on (Updated )

This was an action by the Plaintiff shipyard to recover the balance owing on a ship construction contract with the Defendant purchaser. The purchaser alleged that the vessel was constructed with numerous defects that amounted to a fundamental breach of contract by the shipyard and rendered the ship not fit for the purpose for which it was intended and not of merchantable quality. The purchaser further counterclaimed against the shipyard and against the ship’s designer and steamship inspectors alleging their negligence resulted in the loss of the vessel at sea. In a judgment of 216 pages the court held that the ship when delivered was seaworthy, fit for the purpose intended and was of merchantable quality. The court noted that, although a number of problems were experienced by the vessel after delivery, these problems were repairable and were all dealt with by the shipyard and/or by suppliers of equipment. Accordingly, the court found that there had been no fundamental breach of the contract by the shipyard and allowed the shipyard’s claim for the balance of the purchase price. With respect to the counterclaim, the court found some negligence on the part of the shipyard and the designers of the vessel but held that this negligence was not causative of the loss of the vessel. The cause of the loss was determined to be due primarily to the negligence of the purchaser in selecting an unqualified Master and to the negligence of the Master in the management and navigation of the vessel. Additionally, the court found that the steamship inspectors were negligent in their failure to reasonably interpret and apply the regulations and provisions of the Tonnage Guidelines under the Canada Shipping Act. The court apportioned liability and costs 65% against the purchaser and Master and 35% against the steamship inspectors.