According to the international sale of contract description, the seller (shipper/cargo-owner) is required to enter into an appropriate carriage contract with the carriers. The carriage contract between the shipper of goods and the carrier of which the bill of lading is evidence will be governed by the International Convention that is the Hague -Visby Rules. 12The Rules will prima facie have statutory application to every bill of lading relating to the carriage of goods between ports in two different states (Art X). Therefore, in the present case, the Hague-Visby Rules shall apply.
The relationships for the shipper and the carrier13 under the Rules The liabilities of a carrier under the Rules are relatively strict to protect the goods safely transferred from the seller to the buyer14. The cargo-owner also has liability under the govern of the Rules for the carriage of dangerous goods, the express provision is to be found in Art IV rule 615. It can be noted that the carrier’s consent to the shipment of the cargo has been obtained in ignorance of its inflammable, explosive or dangerous nature.
In such situation the carrier is not only to ‘land, destroy or render the goods innocuous without paying compensation but also he is not liable for all damages and expenses arising from such shipment16. What is classed as ‘dangerous goods’? there is no further provisions contained in the Rules 6. The common law involves a far wider definition of what constitute dangerous goods that a dangerous cargo is not in itself inherently dangerous but which may endanger the free movement of the ship then causing unreasonable delay.
The law relating to dangerous goods was recently reviewed by the House of Lords in Effort shipping Co. Ltd v Linden Management SA (The Giannis NK)18 ,where the Lords fully confirms the description of ‘dangerous goods’ within the meaning of article IV(6), Lord Lloyd said:: “It was settle law that the word ‘dangerous’…. must be given a broad meaning. Dangerous goods were not confined to goods of an inflammable or explosive nature or other like. Goods could be dangerous… if they were dangerous to other goods, even though they were not dangerous to the vessel itself.
‘Dangerous’ was not to be confined to goods which were liable to cause direct physical damage to other goods. ” Therefore, the Giannis NK established the broad meaning of ‘dangerous goods’ approach which is adopted by the HL for the concept of ‘dangerous goods’ at common law by Mustill J in The Athanasia Comninos19that ‘dangerousness’ is not an absolute quality only but it determines the distribution of risk for the consequences of a dangerous situation arising during the voyage.
The second provision of rule 6 further provides the carrier may take the same actions in respects of goods that become a danger to the ship or cargo even if shipment of goods with his knowledge and consent, without liability except to general average, if any. This part of provision can be understood in a case of Chandris v Isbrandsten-Moller Co Inc20, where the court held that the shipment of dangerous goods with the consent of mater did not preclude the shipowner’s right to claim damage against the shipper.
Article IV(6) provides a very strict liability for shippers to ship dangerous goods that the shipper alone is liable for all damages arising directly or indirectly from the shipment of dangerous goods. However, the application of Art IV (6) always remains the subject to the carrier’s overriding obligation to make the ship seaworthy under Art III r1. In the recent case of Northern Shipping Co v Deutsche Seereederei GmbH,21where the court held that supplying a seaworthy ship is an overriding duty which must pre-exist before the protective provisions in the Hague Visby Rules.
Therefore, the goods are classed as ‘dangerous goods’ within the definition of Art IV(6). Carrier may rely on Art IV(6) claim damage against cargo owner who ship dangerous goods. The facts in the present case are: 1) the initial combustion of goods in hold occurred arising from vibration of the ship because of heavy weather;2) the explosion of two bags of fertilizer become danger to other goods and the ship;3) the carrier discharges all goods in case of further endanger. It can be noted there are two causes resulting in the loss of goods, but it is important to decide which of them is the more dominant contributing to the loss.
The relevant fact also indicates that carrier had known the goods are ‘highly sensitive to vibration of any kind’ from the media report when he discharges all goods into the sea. If carrier could store the goods in the ship’s hold by an appropriate manner in the event of vibration by which the loss would not have combusted. Therefore, the dominant cause is that carrier’ failure to exercise his due diligence to make the ship seaworthy. As a result, he can not rely on rules 6 as a protective rule to claim any indemnity. Thus, I advice G, as a lawful holder of billing of lading to sue FL and claim damages.