Carriage of goods by sea and bills of lading

International conventions

Are the Hague Rules, Hague-Visby Rules, Hamburg Rules or some variation in force and have they been ratified or implemented without ratification? Has your state ratified, accepted, approved or acceded to the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea? When does carriage at sea begin and end for the purpose of application of such rules?

International conventions come into force in Nigeria when they have been enacted into law by the National Assembly. The Hague Rules were enacted into law in 1926 without variation by the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act and more recently the Hamburg Rules were also enacted into law without variation by the United Nations Convention on Carriage of Goods by Sea (Ratification and Enforcement) Act 2005.

Nigeria has ratified the Rotterdam Rules, but they do not yet have the force of law.

For the purpose of application of the rules, carriage of goods commences when the carrier receives the goods for carriage and ends when he or she delivers to the receiver in accordance with the contract of carriage or the law of the discharge port.

Multimodal carriage

Are there Conventions or domestic laws in force in respect of road, rail or air transport that apply to stages of the transport other than by sea under a combined transport or multimodal bill of lading?

The only other means of carriage under a combined transport or multimodal bill of lading regulated by domestic legislation and international convention is air transport, which is governed by the Civil Aviation Act and the Warsaw Convention.

Title to sue

Who has title to sue on a bill of lading?

The carrier, shipper, consignee and endorsee of the bill of lading.

Charter parties

To what extent can the terms in a charter party be incorporated into the bill of lading? Is a jurisdiction or arbitration clause in a charter party, the terms of which are incorporated in the bill, binding on a third-party holder or endorsee of the bill?

The terms of a charter party can be wholly incorporated into the bill of lading as express terms of the same. All the terms of the incorporated charter party being express terms of the bill of lading shall be binding on a third-party holder or endorsee of the bill. Where, however, the bill of lading is issued pursuant to the charter party without an express incorporation of the terms, the arbitration clause will not be enforceable against a third-party holder who has acquired the bill in good faith, unless an annotation is inserted in the bill of lading to the effect that the arbitration clause is so binding.

Demise and identity of carrier clauses

Is the ‘demise’ clause or identity of carrier clause recognised and binding?

The demise clause or identity of carrier clause is no longer recognised or binding in Nigeria in view of the provisions of the Hamburg Rules, which are in force in Nigeria.

Shipowner liability and defences

Are shipowners liable for cargo damage where they are not the contractual carrier and what defences can they raise against such liability? In particular, can they rely on the terms of the bill of lading even though they are not contractual carriers?

Shipowners are not liable for cargo damage where they are not the contractual carriers.

Generally, only parties to a contract can rely on the terms of the contract and thus the shipowner cannot rely on the terms of the bill of lading if he or she is not a contracting party. Where, however, the shipowner acts as an agent of the contractual carrier and acted pursuant to the agency employment, the shipowner could be entitled to rely on the terms of the bill of lading if the bill provides that agents may do so.

Deviation from route

What is the effect of deviation from a vessel’s route on contractual defences?

Where the deviation is not for a justifiable reason such as to save life or property, the carrier shall be liable for losses or damage that result from such deviation. The deviation should, however, not affect defences for loss or damage that occur independently of the deviation.

The carrier may lose its right to limit its liability if it is shown that the deviation was reckless and with knowledge that loss or damage would occur as a result.


What liens can be exercised?

The liens that can be exercised include a carrier’s possessory lien on cargo for unpaid freight; and statutory liens prescribed in the Admiralty Jurisdiction Act for a maritime claim against the vessel, where the party personally liable on the claim is, both at the time the cause of action arose and at the time action is brought, the owner or demise charterer in possession and control of the vessel. In the absence of the particular vessel, the lien can be exercised on any other vessel beneficially owned by the liable party at the time action is brought.

Delivery without bill of lading

What liability do carriers incur for delivery of cargo without production of the bill of lading and can they limit such liability?

Where the carrier delivers the cargo without production of the bill of lading, he or she will be liable for any loss or damage that results and such liability cannot be limited.

Shipper responsibilities and liabilities

What are the responsibilities and liabilities of the shipper?

The shipper is liable for loss suffered by the carrier, the actual carrier or damage sustained by the ship if the loss or damage was caused by the fault or neglect of the shipper or his or her servants or agents.

The shipper has the responsibility to suitably label dangerous goods as such and to inform the carrier of the dangerous nature of the goods and the precautions it may be necessary to take.

If the shipper fails to properly label dangerous goods or to inform the carrier about them, the shipper shall be liable to the carrier and any actual carrier for loss resulting from the shipment of such goods.