The Valle di Cordoba – tankers, in transit loss clauses, strict liability and piracy
Michael Ashcroft QC acted for the successful shipowners in this interesting case concerning a claim by charterers for alleged "in transit loss" of premium motor oil. The vessel carrying the cargo was attacked off-shore Nigeria by pirates who forced the Master at gun point to discharge some 5,300 MT of cargo to an unknown lighter which then disappeared. Charterers contended that the shipowners were absolutely/strictly liable for this loss pursuant to the terms of an "in transit loss" clause that was incorporated into the charterparty and claimed approaching US$5m against the shipowners. Andrew Smith J, accepting the shipowners' arguments, disagreed. Cargo discharged from the vessel by pirates was not "in transit loss" within the meaning of the clause. In any event, even if that was wrong, the "in transit loss" clause was clearly subject to the Hague-Visby Rules exceptions, that were also incorporated into the charterparty, and those exceptions applied to protect the shipowners on the facts of the case.
Michael Ashcroft QC was instructed by Ince & Co