Marine Insurance Law

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A very important aspect of Marine Insurance law is the risk of ‘perils of the seas’. In maritime journeys, the risk of perils of the sea is the most probable risk to the ship. It is very natural for a ship owner to contemplate marine insurance so that he can recover any loss caused by destruction of the ship due to perils of the sea. There is a condition that is strictly attached with Marine Insurance which is the seaworthiness of the ship in question. S. 39(4) of Marine Insurance Act, 1906 states that, A ship is deemed to be seaworthy when she is reasonably fit in all respects to encounter the ordinary perils of the seas of the adventure insured. It means that the ship must be able to bear the ordinary risks that are encountered in a voyage and the owner must take necessary steps to make any repairs that are required to make the ship seaworthy. If it turns out that the ship was sunk or destroyed because it was not seaworthy, the owner would not be able to recover anything from the insurer. It is also important that the ship is insured against the risk of perils of the sea. The burden of proof that a ship has sunk due to perils of the sea lays on the plaintiff i.e. the owner. However, the defendants are allowed to prove that the ship has not sunk due to the perils of the sea but it is not obligatory. The Popi M In The Popi M [1985]2 Lloyd’s Rep. 1, Popi M, a conventional cargo ship, sank in calm weather in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Algeria in deep water and it was laden with a cargo of bagged sugar. The plaintiffs sought to claim insurance from the defendants, hull underwriters, claiming that the ship sank due to one of the perils that they had insured against. The burden of proof that the ship sank due to the perils of the sea was on the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs explained that the ship had collided with an unidentified, moving and submerged submarine which was unseen and went undetected. Inquiries were made as to the seaworthiness of the ship and it was found that the ship was seaworthy. It was held that as the true cause of the sinking of Popi M was in doubt and the plaintiffs had failed to provide a justified explanation that the ship had sunk due to the perils of the sea, the plaintiffs’ claim was rejected. This case reveals that the proof on balance of properties is very important in Marine Insurance Law. It means that the proof which has to be given by the plaintiffs must be probable and convincing so that it can be relied upon. A collision with a submarine would surely have a two-fold effect and there was absolutely no evidence to believe that there was, in fact, a submarine that had collided with the ship. It is also very improbable that the collision occurred accidently because the submarine was undetected because even if it was, the ship itself was very detectable and the operators of the submarine would have seen it surely. In any case, this is not included in the risks of perils of the sea. The proof provided by the plaintiffs was insufficient to fulfill the balance of probabilities and the court declared that it was impossible that it could have happened. The defendants had no obligation to give an alternate explanation. It was enough for them that it was very improbable that the ship sank in a calm weather due to perils of the sea. The Marel Another very important case regarding ‘perils of the sea’