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Sudden leak due to rust resulting in damage to cargo – hirers able to show absence of fault or privity

The facts

An open steel barge was loaded with cargo and left in the dock.

Substantial ingress of water occurred overnight damaging the cargo.

The vessel was dry docked. A hole was found in its plates which had been caused by rust.

The hirers sought to limit their liability in terms of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1921 to qualify for which they had to show an absence of fault or privity on their part.


The admiralty judge (Bucknill J) found that the barge had been properly maintained and that there had been no warning of the hole which occurred.

Accordingly he found an absence of fault or privity on the part of the hirers.

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Charter Party Casebook