Extent Of The Implied Obligation Of Seaworthiness And The Effects Of Breach

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The law with respect to seaworthiness is necessary since the vendor is discharged of liability once the goods are dispatched at aport for shipment to the buyer. Moreover, should the goods arrive in a nonconforming state the buyer is at liberty to reject them?The difficulty with respect to liability arises if the goods were damaged in transit. Since the vendor is discharged of liability upon delivery of the goods at the dispatching port provided they conform to the terms of the contract and are subsequently damaged in transit, the question of seaworthiness arises to determine whether or not the carrier should be held responsible for those damages. This paper examines the implied duty of the carrier to ensure seaworthiness and the implications with respect to a breach of the implied duty.In order to fully understand the concept and extent of liability for an unseaworthy vessel, it is necessary to examine how the term seaworthiness is defined by the courts. In an early case the Court of Appeal per Cairns J defined seaworthiness as such that:Over the years this definition has been expanded upon in such a way as to impose upon the carrier the duty to not only ensure that the vessel is physically fit but to guard against the possibility that it might become unseaworthy during the voyage. For instance, seaworthiness was defined in McFadden v Blue Star Line [1905] 1 KB 697 as a vessel which:“…must have that degree of fitness which an ordinarily careful and prudent owner would require his vessel to have at the commencement of her voyage having regard to all the probable circumstances of it.”5These common-law definitions of seaworthiness are mirrored in the Maritime Insurance Act 1906 Section, Section 39 which provides for a vastly similar duty on the part of the carrier with respect to a vessel being able to withstand the ordinary perils of the sea.7The term “all respects” has given rise to the extension of the duty to provide a seaworthy vessel and has therefore been expanded by the courts. Sir MacKenzie Chalmers, one of the original drafters of the Maritime Insurance Act 1906 explains that:“the words ‘in all respects’, in S. 39 include ‘manning, equipment and stowage’, but these additional words were cut out in the Lords, being regarded as unnecessary and probably restrictive.”