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Carriage of goods

International conventions

Is your jurisdiction party to any international conventions on the carriage of goods by sea? If so, does the relevant domestic implementing law contain any notable modifications (eg, extensions to the scope of application)?

The Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (Cap 33) transposes the Hague-Visby Rules.

Carrier’s responsibility

What is the official extent of the carrier’s responsibility for goods?

Article II(2) of the Hague-Visby Rules provides that the carrier must properly and carefully load, handle, stow, carry, keep, care for and discharge the goods carried. Thus, the carrier’s liability is from “ship’s rail to ship’s rail”.

Contractual limitation of liability

May parties contract out of any legal provisions governing cargo liability?

Article III(8) of the Hague-Visby Rules provides that any clause, covenant or agreement in a contract of carriage relieving the carrier or the ship from liability for loss or damage to, or in connection with, goods arising from negligence, fault or failure in the duties and obligations provided in this article or lessening such liability other than that provided for in the rules, will be null and void. An insurance benefit in favour of the carrier or a similar clause will be deemed to relieve the carrier from liability.

Title to sue

Who has title to sue on a bill of lading?

Section 2(1) of the Bills of Lading Act (Cap 384) stipulates that by virtue of becoming the holder of the bill or, as the case may be, the person to whom delivery is to be made, the following parties will have all rights of suit under the contract of carriage as if they had been a party to that contract:

  • the lawful holder of a bill of lading;
  • the person (without being an original party to the contract of carriage) to whom delivery of the goods to which a sea waybill relates is to be made by the carrier in accordance with that contract; or
  • the person to whom delivery of the goods to which a ship’s delivery order relates is to be made in accordance with the undertaking contained in the order.

However, Section 2(2) provides that where a person becomes the lawful holder of a bill of lading, possession of the bill no longer provides a right (as against the carrier) to possession of the goods to which the bill relates. As such, that person will have no rights transferred to him or her by virtue of Sub-section (1), unless he or she becomes the holder of the bill:

  • by virtue of a transaction effected in pursuance of any contractual or other arrangements made before such a right to possession ceased to attach to possession of the bill; or
  • as a result of the rejection of that person by another person of goods or documents delivered to the other person in pursuance of such arrangements.

Time bar

What is the time bar for cargo claims?

Unless otherwise extended by the parties, the time bar is one year from the date of delivery of the goods or the date on which they should have been delivered.

Definition of ‘carrier’ and ‘goods’

How are ‘carrier’ and ‘goods’ defined in respect of cargo claims? Is there any especially pertinent case law on this issue?

A ‘carrier’ includes an owner or charterer who enters into a contract of carriage with a shipper. ‘Goods’ includes goods, wares, merchandise and articles of every kind, except live animals and cargo which under the contract of carriage must be carried on deck and is so carried.

Defences available to carrier

Under what circumstances may the carrier rely on the perils of the sea defence? What other defences are available to the carrier?

‘Perils of the sea’ is one of the 17 defences listed in Article IV(2) of the Hague-Visby Rules. It refers only to fortuitous accidents or casualties at sea and does not include the ordinary action of winds and waves.

Other defences include:

  • the act of the master in the navigation or management of the ship;
  • acts of god;
  • inadequate packing; and
  • latent defects not discoverable through due diligence.

Third parties

What legal protections and defences against cargo claims are available to agents of the carrier and other third parties (eg, Himalaya clauses)?

A Singapore Court would be prepared to give effect to a properly worded Himalaya clause.

Deviation from route

Under what circumstances is deviation from the agreed route allowed?

Article IV(4) of the Hague-Visby Rules permits reasonable deviation to save or attempt to save life or property at sea.

Claims against shipper

What claims can the carrier pursue in respect of the shipper’s failure to meet its obligations?

Article IV(6) of the Hague-Visby Rules provides that a shipper will be liable for all damages and expenses directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from the shipment of goods of an inflammable, explosive or dangerous nature without the consent or knowledge of the carrier, master or agent.

Multimodal carriage of goods

How is multimodal carriage regulated in your jurisdiction?

Forwarders must usually incorporate the standard terms and conditions of a freight-forwarding body or association into their contracts.

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