Recourse Claims Subject to Time Bar
Duty to Inform Carriers

Recourse Claims Subject to Time Bar

In a recent case a Danish meat exporter, Danexport, requested contracting carrier DSV Samson Transport to arrange the carriage of 20 tons of fresh streaky bacon from Britain to a consignee in Hungary. Danexport emphasized that the consignment had to pass customs clearance before midnight on November 14 1998, at which time a new prohibition against the import into Hungary of certain meat products would take effect. DSV ordered the German carrier Dieter Mehrhols Internationale Transporte to perform the carriage. Accordingly, Mehrhols collected the consignment, which was loaded into a semi-trailer by slaughterhouse staff.

However, the meat products were loaded in such a way that the tractor's load exceeded the maximum permitted axle load of approximately 20%. Mehrholz did not instruct the slaughterhouse staff as to how to goods should be loaded, and did not ensure that the vehicle met the load requirements of the road traffic legislation in force at the time.

On November 14 1998 the vehicle was detained at the border of the Czech Republic and Slovakia after Slovakian customs officers measured the trailer's axle load. Since the driver was unable to pay the SIKr3,000 demanded by the Slovakian authorities, the trailer was ordered to return to Germany on November 16 1998 in order for the consignment to be frozen. However, the trailer was further detained at the border of the Czech Republic and Germany, again because of its excess load. By the time the trailer was allowed to return to Britain, the meat was rotten.

The goods insurers brought an action against DSV and, later, against the performing carrier Mehrholz. The Maritime and Commercial Court held that the action between DSV and Mehrholz should not be judged in accordance with Chapter 6 of the CMR Convention which, in the court’s opinion, extends only to carriages performed by several carriers in succession. Rather, the relevant provision was Article 31, according to which DSV's claim against Mehrholz was time-barred.(1)

As a result of the decision, recourse claims between carriers will mostly be decided according to Article 31, with the effect that the carrier bringing the action may be left with little time to prevent it from becoming time-barred.

The judgment has been appealed to the Supreme Court.

Duty to Inform Carriers

In another recent case the plaintiff's insured brought a case following the theft of its branded designer goods.

The insured, Blue Willi's, failed to inform the contracting carrier, Dantransport, that special security measures should be taken during transportation of the goods. Neither the appearance of the goods nor the information available to the carrier indicated that the goods were at particular risk of theft. Given the circumstances, Dantransport and the performing carrier, Niels Pagh Transport, were within their rights to assume that the goods were general cargo which did not require special precautions to reduce the risk of theft.

Over a weekend, the tarpaulin trailer in which the goods were being transported was parked in an area that was checked by security guards only three times a night.

The court found that the resultant theft of the goods was not caused by gross negligence under Article 29 of the CMR Convention. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s action was dismissedThe ruling highlights the fact that carriers must be informed when goods are of special value and special security measures must be taken.(2)

For further information on this topic please contact Jesper Windahl at Bech-Bruun Dragsted by telephone (+45 7733 7733) or by fax (+45 7733 7744) or by email ([email protected]).


(1) Maritime and Commercial Court judgment of October 9 2001.

(2) Maritime and Commercial Court judgment of December 4 2001.