Ship’s rail exception not protecting shipowners from delivery against disposal of goods on forged bills of lading.
Goods were shipped from Hong Kong and ports in China to Cotonou and Abidjan in West Africa under bills of lading made out to order.
Clause 5.3.b. of the bills read as follows:
“Where the carriage called for commences at the port of loading and/ or finishes at the port of discharge, the Carrier shall have no liability whatsoever for any loss or damage to the goods while in its actual or constructive possession before loading or after discharge over ships rail, or if applicable, on the ships ramp, however caused.”
For the purposes of argument it was assumed that once the goods had passed the ship’s rail they were innocently and reasonably delivered by the shipowners’ agents against presentation of forged bills of lading.
The main preliminary question to be decided was whether clause 5.3.b protected owners in these circumstances.
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