Economic loss and limitation under Hague-Visby Rules. The Limnos not followed.

Trafigura Pte Ltd v TKK Shipping Pte Ltd (Rev1) [2023] EWHC 26 (Comm) (13 January 2023) involved a point of law relating to what is meant by  Article IV(5)(a) of the Hague-Visby Rules which limits the carrier’s liability to a sum based upon the weight of the “goods lost or damaged”. The ‘Thorco Lineage’ carried cargo from the US to Australia under a bill of lading issued in Switzerland. Following an engine failure, the salvors re-floated the vessel, and obtained a lien on the cargo in respect of the cargo interests’ liability for salvage remuneration. A small part of the cargo was also physically damaged in the re-floating efforts. The claimants incurred four heads of loss which they claimed were the result of the carrier’s breach of contract.

i) Liability to pay the Salvors US$7,355,000.

ii) Physical loss and/or damage to the cargo US$278,658.31.

iii) On-shipment costs in respect of the cargo (some of which was physically damaged and some of which was not) US$723,831.85.

iv) Costs incurred in arranging for the salvage sale and/or disposal of some of the physically damaged cargo US$58,934.74.

The dispute was whether the words “goods lost or damaged” refer and refer only to physically lost or damaged goods. In this case there were two such expenses, salvage payable pursuant to LOF and the cost of on-shipping goods from a place of safety to the port of discharge, resulting in a diminished value for the merchant at the port of discharge to the extent of the additional expense which he has incurred. The goods were clearly economically “damaged”. Teare J departed from the previous first instance decision of Burton J in The Limnos [2008] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 166 in finding that “goods lost or damaged” means “goods lost or which survived in damaged form”. Teare J held that “goods lost or damaged” includes goods which are economically damaged. The travaux préparatoires were of no assistance as there was no discussion of the meaning of the words “goods lost or damaged”. Under Article IV r.5 (a) the liability of the Defendant in respect of the Claimant’s liability to the Salvors was limited to 2 SDRs per kilogramme of the whole cargo. Likewise the liability of the Defendant in respect of the on-shipment costs incurred by the Claimant was limited to 2 SDRs per kilogramme of the whole cargo.

Teare J then considered the position based on the assumption that Burton J’s decision in The Limnos was correct. First, the cargo in this case was physically damaged in that it was subject to the salvor’s maritime lien and so the Claimant’s proprietary or possessory title to the cargo was damaged and therefore the liability of the defendant in respect of the claimant’s liability to the salvors would be limited to 2 SDRs per kilogramme of the whole cargo. However, the maritime lien did not extend to the on-shipment costs incurred by the Claimant. Teare J accepted the submission of Counsel for the Defendants that if there is economic loss or damage in connection with the goods which were the subject of the contract of carriage then, if there is also physical loss or damage to such goods, the carrier’s liability for the economic loss or damage is limited by reference to the weight of the physically lost or damaged goods and if there is no such physical loss or damage then the carrier’s liability for the economic loss lor damage is unlimited. The limit of the Defendant’s liability in respect of the on-shipment costs would be based upon 2 SDRs per kilogramme of the physically lost or damaged cargo.

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Professor Simon Baughen

Professor Simon Baughen was appointed as Professor of Shipping Law in September 2013 (previously Reader at the University of Bristol Law School). Simon Baughen studied law at Oxford and practised in maritime law for several years before joining academia. His research interests lie mainly in the field of shipping law, but also include the law of trusts and the environmental law implications of the activities of multinational corporations in the developing world. Simon's book on Shipping Law, has run to seven editions (soon to be eight) and is already well-known to academics and students alike as by far the most learned and approachable work on the subject. Furthermore, he is now the author of the very well-established practitioner's work Summerskill on Laytime. He has an extensive list of publications to his name, including International Trade and the Protection of the Environment, and Human Rights and Corporate Wrongs - Closing the Governance Gap. He has also written and taught extensively on commercial law, trusts and environmental law. Simon is a member of the Institute of International Shipping and Trade Law, a University Research Centre within the School of Law, and he currently teaches at Swansea on the LLM in:Carriage of Goods by Sea, Land and Air; Charterparties Law and Practice; International Corporate Governance.

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