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Bill of lading – charterer’s form – signed on behalf of the master

The facts

A shipment of cloth from Calcutta to Buenos Aires was short delivered. Charterers paid for the shortfall but sought to deduct this from hire due to owners.

The cargo was shipped under a bill of lading suggesting that charterers were party to the bill. It was signed by charterers’ agent but the signature was qualified by the words, “for the Master”.

Owners resisted the claim on the basis that the bill of lading did not constitute the contract between charterers and the cargo owners and that charterers were accordingly not liable for the shortage. In consequence there had been no obligation on charterers to pay for the shortfall and in further consequence charterers were not entitled to make the deduction from hire due to owners.


The court upheld owners’ argument relying on Wehner & Others v Dene Steam Shipping Co. and Tillmans and Co v Knutsford Steamship Co. for the convention that bills signed for the “master” are always owners’ bills ie. contracts between the owner and the shipper.

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Charter Party Casebook