De Wolf Maritime Safety B.V. v. Traffic-Tech International Inc.

In Carriage of Goods by Sea on (Updated )

Précis: A carrier is entitled to limit liability under the Hague-Visby Rules for undeclared deck carriage.

Facts: The plaintiff was the owner and consignee of a cargo stuffed into a container and carried from Vancouver to Rotterdam under a bill of lading issued by the defendant. The container was carried on the deck of the carrying vessel but was not declared as being so carried on the bill of lading. During the course of the carriage by sea the container was lost overboard. The plaintiff commenced proceedings against the defendant for the value of the cargo. The defendant brought this application for determination of a question of law, namely, whether it was entitled to limit its liability under the Hague-Visby Rules notwithstanding the undeclared deck carriage.

Decision: The defendant is entitled to limit its liability under the Hague-Visby Rules.

Held: The question of law is to be determined by examining the relevant provisions of the Hague-Visby Rules. The Hague-Visby Rules apply to “goods” of every description “except live animals and cargo which by the contract of carriage is stated as being carried on deck and is so carried”. Both conditions must be met before deck cargo is excluded from the Rules; it must both be carried on deck and be stated as being carried on deck. Therefore, cargo carried on deck but not so stated will be governed by the Hague-Visby Rules. The caselaw supports this interpretation.