Hill Harmony case still defines a master’s authority

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Originally published in Tanker Shipping & Trade I October/November 2011.

The law is explicit on who has the final say on a vessel’s route, writes John A C Cartner*

A great deal of ink has been spilt by commentators on whether the master of a vessel has the ultimate authority to choose its route or whether this power resides with the time charterer. One answer is to be found in the Hill Harmony case (Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd v. Whistler International Ltd. - The ‘Hill Harmony’ [2001] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 147 (LLords Dec 2000).

The Hill Harmony was sub-sub-time chartered for a month or so from Vancouver to Shiogama on an amended New York Produce Exchange Time Charter form (as was the preceding subtime charter) voyaging from Vancouver to Yokkaichi. The owners undertook seaworthiness and fitness for service and maintenance at delivery and during the voyage (clause 1) and were responsible for navigation, acts of pilots or tugs, insurance, crew and otherwise as if trading for their own account (clause 26). The charterers were obliged to furnish the master with the necessary instructions and sailing directions (clause 11). The master was to prosecute the voyage with utmost despatch and, even though appointed by the owners, was under the orders and directions of the charterers as to employment and agency (clause 8). The charterparty included three clauses paramount. These clauses in effect did not permit the usual exception for loss or damage arising from “the act, neglect or default” of the master in the navigation or management of the vessel (see: Article IV Rule 2(a) of the amended Hague Rules).

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