531. Panamanian Oriental Steamship Corporation v Wright (the “Anita”) [1971]

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Customs regulations” in war risks policy to be given business-like interpretation

The Facts

The vessel was insured under a war risks policy with Lloyd’s underwriters “which took the usual form but is very complicated” (per Lord Denning MR).

Usual perils included barratry.

The FCS clause read: “warranted free of capture, seizure, arrest, restraint or detainment, and the consequences thereof or of any attempt thereat”.

Clause 4(1)(e) excluded arrest or detainment by reason of infringement of any customs regulations.

In 1966 Vietnam was in political turmoil.

The vessel, an elderly Edwardian steamship sailed from Taiwan bound for Saigon, calling on Hong Kong on the way.

At Cap St. Jacques anchorage, 40 miles downriver from Saigon, customs authorities discovered contraband of war concealed in the vessel.

The master and crew were tried by a special court under a Vietnamese statute which provided for confiscation of the means of transport employed in the offence. The master was acquitted but five of the seamen were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment. The vessel was confiscated.

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