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Wednesday, May 29, 2019 

Following consideration of a disputed clause by the English High Court, UK P&I Club has advised on the implications and risks of proposed carriage of cargo on deck.

Lisa Clarke at UK P&I said: “If the cargo carried on deck falls outside the definition of Goods found within the Hague/ Hague Visby Rules, the Carrier will be deprived of the defences available to him under Article IV of the Hague/ Hague Visby Rules, should the cargo be damaged or lost. It is prudent for the carrier to seek to exclude all liability for carriage of cargo on deck by inserting an appropriate clause into the bill of lading.”

The English High Court recently considered the interpretation of a clause in a bill of lading excluding the bulk carrier’s liability for deck cargo.

“A cargo of offshore production equipment was carried on deck and lost overboard in heavy weather. Cargo interests brought proceedings against the ship owner, arguing that the clause should be read as not excluding the carrier’s liability for loss or damage, these being obligations which were not specifically addressed in the clause. The owner denied the claim citing the deck cargo exclusion clause," said Clarke.

UK P&I Club Rules make no express exclusions with regard to the carriage of deck cargo. The carriage of cargo on deck, other than by custom (e.g. the container trade), or agreement, will constitute a deviation.  It follows that there will be no cover for a member’s liability for deck cargo unless:

  1. It is customary to carry such cargo on deck; or
  2. The proposed carriage has been approved by the managers in advance, possibly with additional cover arranged.

Clarke concluded: “Carriers are advised to consult with and utilise their Club’s Loss Prevention Department when considering a voyage involving deck cargo. In order to check whether there are any practical considerations to take into account. It is also important to check that the relevant bill of lading has the correct protective wording.”

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