Canadian National Railway v. Neptune Bulk Terminals (Canada) Ltd.

In Carriage of Goods by Sea on (Updated )

The Plaintiff railway company brought this action against the Defendant terminal operator to recover demurrage charges for delay in the loading and unloading of grain from the Plaintiff’s rail cars. The Plaintiff argued that it was entitled to the payment of demurrage in accordance with its tariffs published pursuant to the Canadian Transportation Act. The Judge reviewed the history of the Canadian Transportation Act and demurrage in relation to rail carriers and ultimately concluded that the Act did not permit the Plaintiff to impose tariffs on third parties such as the Defendant who have no direct contractual relationship with the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff’s tariffs were only enforceable against parties with whom the Plaintiff contracted, namely, the shippers. The Plaintiff advanced an alternative argument that there was an implied agreement with the Defendant for the payment of demurrage based on correspondence and notices from the Plaintiff advising that terminals accepting rail cars were deemed to undertake payment of demurrage. The Judge also rejected this argument, however, as the Defendant had repeatedly advised the Plaintiff that it would not be responsible for the charges. Finally, the Plaintiff argued that the Defendant, who was named as consignee in some bills of lading, was liable for demurrage pursuant to s.2 of the Bills of Lading Act. The Judge rejected this argument on the basis, inter alia, that s.2 of the Bills of Lading Act applied only to consignees “to whom the property in the goods therein mentioned passes” and the Defendant did not acquire ownership in any of the goods.