WHAT DOES THE CARRIER HAVE TO ENSURE?
Art 3 of H/HV Rules states:
“The carrier shall be bound, before and at the beginning of the voyage, to exercise due diligence to
(a) Make the ship seaworthy
(b) Properly man, equip and supply the ship
(c) Make the holds, refrigerating and cool chambers, and all the other parts of the ship in which goods are carried, fit and safe for their reception, carriage and preservation”
HOW DID THE CARRIER OBTAIN THE SHIP?
A carrier can be a charterer as defined by the rules but this post shall deal with the differing responsibilities of a shipowner.
OWNER BUILDS VESSEL
If a shipowner engages a builder to build a vessel for him, his duty to exercise due diligence would be more onerous compared to a 2nd hand vessel buyer. Though the duty to exercise due diligence (to ensure seaworthiness) is non delegable, the shipowner will not be faulted for failure of his agents too far down the line, ie negligence of the builder’s employees will not be imputed on the shipowner.
However, the shipowner will be liable if he fails to engage builders of repute and to adopt all reasonable precautions, eg by engaging skilled inspectors to supervise the work. That said, the shipowners WILL be liable if the skilled inspector somehow is negligent and failed to detect bad work. It will be Shipowner’s duty to inspect the vessel building process and the poor performance of that duty by a delegated 3P will impute liability on Shipowner
2nd HAND BUYER
In this case, the 2nd hand buyer will not be involved in the building process and his responsibility is reduced in that sense. However, there is still a duty to ensure the vessel is seaworthy and due diligent inspections are required to ensure the ship is fit for the service in which he puts vessel. Similarly, the inspection, if being outsourced, and not done properly somehow by a reputable inspector, will cause the shipowner to be liable.