The recent Tai Prize case underscored how important it is for a master to fully understand the implications of signing a bill of lading, says the Swedish Club. Price Tai’s decision reiterates the legal principle that a captain should only sign a bill of lading if he accurately describes the condition of the cargo, regardless of any commercial pressures he might face.
While leading law firms will no doubt continue to explore the complexities surrounding this issue; the main thing is that the weight of the responsibility lies with the master on the day.
Torbjörn Claesson, Senior Claims Executive, based in the Club’s Swedish team, explains: “The bill of lading is complex partly because of its simplicity. Often, a decision made on the spur of the moment can have long-term legal implications. Because a bill of lading is so short, much of the law is found outside the wording of the contract itself – often with as few as four clauses, compared to the many clauses found in a charterparty. .
The Swedish Club supports its members in this area with a comprehensive set of guides covering the most common bill of lading issues. Following this decision, the Club has made available to non-members the two Guides concerned: Practical Guide: Bill of Lading Clause and “Focus: Bill of Lading Clause”.
The Club developed the guides in response to requests from its members for additional support in dealing with some of the practical and theoretical aspects of bills of lading. Despite their apparent simplicity, a bill of lading is still a contract, and the reality is that although there is a lot of information available, it is not always easy to find. Part of the problem is that most advice is found in legal textbooks, which may reach a narrow audience.
How-To Guides offer pragmatic solutions, identifying the simple steps needed to solve a particular problem. Although designed to be of particular use to the captain, crew and member charter and operating services; they are also relevant to the claims team when they need a practical perspective.
In Focus publications are more in-depth and refer to case law where necessary, explaining why the law works the way it does. This is especially useful for in-house attorneys, claims team members, brokers, and those familiar with the law in general.
The full set of bills of lading guides are available to Club members via the new SCOL (Swedish Club Online) and have been created in association with a number of leading law firms.
Source: The Swedish club