21. Leonis Steamship Company Limited v Joseph Rank Limited (No.2) 99 LTR 513; 13 Com Cas 161; 13 Com Cas 295

Strike exception applicable even where proximate cause is congestion.

The facts

The charterparty contained a clause exempting the charterers for delay caused by a number of fortuitous circumstances including strike action. Such clause read as follows:

“39. If the cargo cannot be loaded by reason of riots or any disputes between the masters and men, occasioning a strike of ….. railway employees or other labour connected with the working, loading or delivery of the cargo proved to be intended for the steamer, or through obstructions on the railways or in the docks or other loading places beyond the control of charterers, the time lost not to be counted as part of the lay days….”

Congestion at the port was caused by a strike and a military insurrection.

Findings

Bigham J found in favour of the charterers on two points:

1. that insofar as the congestion was the indirect cause of the events described in the strike clause that the clause was wide enough to cover the situation at hand and;

2. the word “obstructions” in the strike clause included congestion per se.

In the Court of Appeal, Vaughan Williams LJ preferred the first reason given by Bigham J but confirmed the decision on both points. Fletcher Moulton LJ favoured the first reason given while Buckley LJ simply agreed with Bigham J.

Of interest

Hamilton (Lord Sumner) and Scrutton appeared.

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