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The Aqasia: Carrier cannot limit liability under the Hague Rules for loss or damage to bulk cargo

It is now settled under English law that the package limitation of the Hague Rules does not apply to bulk cargoes.  The Commercial Court refused to let a contractual carrier limit his liability in respect of damage to a cargo described as ‘Icelandic Fishoil in bulk – 2.056.926 kgs’.

The Hague Rules in Article IV Rule 5 provide a basis for limitation by reference to “package or unit” and do not contain the alternative weight limitation found in the Hague-Visby Rules.  While it was already established that the word “package” in the phrase “per package or unit” in the Hague Rules could not apply to bulk cargoes “A package is undoubtedly a physical item”, Sir Jeremy Cooke held that the word “unit” could not do so either.  “Unit” meant a physical unit for shipment and not a unit of measurement such as a metric ton, kilogram, cubic metre, a bushel or a barrel.  Accordingly, there was no basis upon which this bulk cargo could be subject to limitation. 

The full citation of this judgement is Vinnlustodin HF & another v Sea Tank Shipping AS [2016] EWHC 2514 (Comm)

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