Seaworthiness

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Introduction
Seaworthiness is defined as the state of a vessel in such a condition, with such equipment, and manned by such a master and crew, that normally the cargo will be loaded, carried, cared for and discharged properly and safely on the contemplated voyage. It includes two aspects: 1) the ship, crew and equipment must be sound and capable of withstanding the ordinary perils of the voyage; 2) the ship must be fit to carry goods. Carrier’s obligation to provide seaworthy vessels is defined under both common law and Hague Visby law. Two major aspect of difference of these two laws is on carrier’s obligation and voyage coverage. 1) It is ship owners’ absolute obligation to make sure the vessel fit to sail and carry goods under common law, while Hague Visby law only request ship owner to perform due diligent work. 2) Seaworthiness coverage is before and throughout the voyage under common law while Hague Visby law only make sure seaworthiness before and at the beginning of the voyage.

Seaworthiness under the Hague Visby law
The coca cargos loaded in Holds No. 1 of The Zarembo were damaged by sea water when it arrived at New York in Jan 1940. Two Cracks was found on the G2-plate exterior of the vessel. Further investigation measured a 25% G2-plate thickness reduction than its original state, which is the limit usually accepted as the maximum. Therefore it was concluded that the No. 1 Hold of the vessel was unseaworthy before and at the beginning of the voyage.

Under Hague Visby law, unseaworthy does not mean the carrier should be responsible to any loss incurred. As long as the carrier can prove that they have performed “due diligent” work to make the ship seaworthy before and at the beginning of the voyage, the carrier can be exempted from the damage liability even the ship is still unseaworthy. The English Court of Appeal has held that the test of due diligence is whether the carrier, its servants, agents and independent contractors have exercised...
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