Hamburg Rules on Carriers Liability for Damages

On April 22 2010 the Hamburg Court of Appeal ruled on the liability which a carrier must carry when it supplied the a container which susequently transpired to be defective.

As a result of Chemical evaporation in the freshly painted containers, the goods were damaged. The goods in question were textiles and were being transported to the porty of Manila.

On the bill of lading the description entered were ‘7 packs and ‘279 packs’ respectively.

The final destination of the goods was Germany via Rotterdam. The damage was not spotted until the containers arrived at their final destination and part of the dispute was whether or not the goods were damaged on the way to the Port of Manila, or in the subsequent transportaion by sea.

Finding of the Court of Appeal

It was held that the contract was a multimodal freight contract because the defendant was responsible for the sea transport from Manila to Rotterdam and the adjacent land transport from Rotterdam to Salzbergen.

The applicable law was deemed to be German as a result of the residency of both parties.

While there was a question as to who had painted the containers, it was held that the Carrier had an obligation to ensure that the containers were fit for the purpose which they were intended, to safely transport the goods. Following on from this finding, damages arise as a result of the breach of the German Civil Code.

This was significant as usually in multimodel contracts, liabiltiy usually only commences from whenec the container arrives in the carriers custody at the port.

In assessing the question of damages the Cout looked to the limitation provisions in German Law and provided that in one instance that the value of the cargo in the container was less than the limitation, and in the other, that the limit was exceeded and that therefore damages for the second container would therefore be limited to the limit provided for in the Commerical Code.

This limitation largely occurred because of the manner in which the Bill of lading had been completed.

Had the bill of Lading spelled out the goods into individual items instead of referring to them in terms ‘packs’ the limitation provision would not have applied.

Dermot Conway
contact Dermot at 0214901000 or