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Liberty to discharge at alternative port not precluded by Article III r8 and Article III r2 of the Hague Rules

The Facts

Timber was shipped from Canada to England under a number of bills of lading nominating three discharge ports: London, Hull and Immingham.

The Hague Rules were incorporated by a Paramount Clause.

Clause 2 read:


The voyage herein undertaken shall include usual or customary or advertised ports of call whether named in this contract or not, also ports in or out of the advertised geographical, usual or ordinary route or order, even though in proceeding thereto the vessel may sail beyond the port of discharge or in a direction contrary thereto, or depart from the direct or customary route. The vessel may call at any port for the purpose of a current voyage or of a prior or subsequent voyage. The vessel may omit calling at any port or ports whether scheduled or not, and may call at the same port more than once; may, either with or without the goods on board, and before or after proceeding towards the port of discharge, adjust compasses, dry-dock, go on ways or to repair yards, shift berths, undergo degaussing, wiping or similar measures, take fuel or stores, land stowaways, remain in port, sail without pilots, tow or be towed, and save or attempt to save life or property, and all of the foregoing are included in the contract of voyage”.

Paragraph 14(c) read:

(c)      Should it appear that epidemics, quarantine, ice, labour troubles, labour obstructions, strikes, lockouts, any of which onboard or onshore difficulties in loading or discharging would prevent the vessel from leaving the port of loading or reaching or entering the port of discharge or there discharging in the usual manner and leaving again, all of which safely and without delay, the Master may discharge the cargo at port of loading or any other safe and convenient port”.

Due to strikes at London and Hull, part of the cargo was discharged at Hamburg and the remainder at Immingham after the strikes had ended.

The issue was whether the owners were liable for the losses suffered by the receivers in transporting the timber from Hamburg to London and Hull.

Receivers argued that the alternative port discharge clause was a diminution of liability proscribed by rules 2 and 8 of Article III.

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