Legal Definition and Related Resources of Seaworthiness

Meaning of Seaworthiness

The doctrine of seaworthiness is that things about a ship, whether the hull, the decks, machinery , tools furnished, stowage , or the cargo containers, must be reasonably fit for the purpose for which they are to be used. See Marin Gutierrez v Waterman S.S. Corp., 373 U.S. 206, 83 S.Ct. 1185,10 L.Ed.2d297. The term means that a vessel is in a fit state at the time of sailing as to repair , equipment and crew and in all other respects to encounter the ordinary perils of the voyage . Does not mean that the ship can weather all storms but that it is reasonably fit to carry the cargo. See Boudoin v Lvkes Bros. S.S. Co., 348 U.S. 336, 75 S. Ct. 382, 99 L.Ed. 354.

Seaworthiness Alternative Definition

In maritime law. The sufficiency of the vessel in materials, construction, equipment, officers, men, and outfit, for the trade or service in which it is employed. 5 M. & W. 414, 9 L. J. Ex. 48. Any sort of disrepair left in the ship, by which she or the cargo may suffer, is a breach of the warranty of seaworthiness. A deficiency of force in the crew, or of skill in the master, mate, etc., is a want of seaworthiness. 1 Campb. 1; 14 East, 481; 4 Duer (N. Y.) 234. If the assurance attaches before the voyage commences, it is enough that the state of the ship be commensurate to the then risk; and, if the voyage be such as to require a different complement of men, or state of equipment in different parts of it, as if it were a voyage down a canal or river and thence across to the open sea, it would be enough if the vessel were, at the commencement of each stage of the navigation, properly manned and equipped for it. 5 M. & W. 414; 8 lb. 895; 9 L. J. Ex. 48. And if there was once a sufficient crew, their temporary absence will not be considered a breach of the warranty. 2 Barn. & Aid. 73; 1 Johns. Cas. (N. Y.) 184; 1 Pet. (U. S.) 183. A vessel may be rendered not seaworthy by being overloaded. 2 Barn. & Aid. 320. It can never be settled by positive rules of law how far this obligation of seaworthiness extends in any particular case, for the reason that improvements and changes in the means and modes of navigation frequently require new implements, or new forms of old ones; and these, though not necessary at first, become so when there is an established usage that all ships of a certain quality, or those to be sent on certain voyages, or used for certain purposes, shall have them. 2 Pars. Mar. Law, 134. Seaworthiness is, therefore, in general, a question of fact for the jury. Id. 187; 1 Pet. (U. S.) 170, 184; 1 Bouv. Inst. 441.

Related Entries of Seaworthiness in the Encyclopedia of Law Project

Browse or run a search for Seaworthiness in the American Encyclopedia of Law, the Asian Encyclopedia of Law, the European Encyclopedia of Law, the UK Encyclopedia of Law or the Latin American and Spanish Encyclopedia of Law.

Seaworthiness in Historical Law

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Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms

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Seaworthiness in Maritime Law

Note: There is more information on maritime/admiralty law here.

The following is a definition of Seaworthiness, produced by Tetley, in the context of admiralty law: [Translation of Seaworthiness in French: “navigabilité”] [Translation of Seaworthiness in Spanish: “navegabilidad”] [Translation of Seaworthiness in Italian: “navigabilità”] [Translation of Seaworthiness in German: “Seetüchtigkeit”] – A basic theme in maritime law, referring to the obligation of shipowners and carriers (see this maritime law term in this legal dictionary) to provide a vessel and crew fit to confront the perils of the sea. In the carriage of goods by sea, under art. 3(1) of the Hague and Hague/Visby Rules (see this maritime law term in this legal dictionary), the carrier must exercise “due diligence” before and at the beginning of the voyage ” (a) to make the ship seaworthy; (b) to properly man, equip and supply the ship; and (c) to make the holds, refrigerating and cool chambers, and all other
parts of the ship in which goods are carried, fit and safe for their reception, carriage and preservation”. Although less demanding than the absolute duty of seaworthiness of the former common law, which applied at all times and at all stages of the voyage, the due diligence obligation has been held to be an overriding obligation on the carrier (see Maxine Footwear Co., Ltd. v. Canadian Government Merchant Marine [1959] A.C. 589 at pp. 602-603 (P.C.)). The carrier has the obligation of proving that due diligence has been exercised. The exercise of due diligence is only material if lack of seaworthiness was the proximate cause of the loss or damage to the goods carried (see Eisenerz G.m.b.H. v. Federal Commerce & Navigation Co. (The Oak Hill) [1974] S.C.R. 1225, [1975] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 105 (Supr. Ct. of Can.)). Moreover, the due diligence obligation may not be delegated (see Riverstone Meat Co. Pty. Ltd. v. Lancashire Shipping Co. (The Muncaster Castle) [1961] A.C. 807, [1961] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 57, 1961 AMC 1357 (H.L.)). Where the contractors act carefully and competently, however, the carrier has been held to have fulfilled its obligation of due diligence (see Union of India v. N.V. Reederij Amsterdam (The Amstelslot) [1963] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 223 (H.L.)). Under the Hamburg Rules (see this maritime law term in this legal dictionary), art. 5(1), the due diligence obligation is not mentioned expressly, nor is seaworthiness. Nevertheless, the obligation of the carrier under that provision to prove that he, his servants and his agents took all measures which could reasonably be required to avoid the occurrence and its consequences, would seem to impose a due diligence obligation at all times and all stages of the voyage. See Tetley,M.C.C., 4 Ed., 2008 at pp. 875-950; Tetley, Int’l. M. & A. L., 2003 at pp. 52-53.

Seaworthiness is also a requirement of charterparties, and is also found in public law, in legislation governing seamen’s employment contracts and steamship inspection (e.g. Canada Shipping Act, 2001, S.C. 2001, c. 26, sects. 85(1) and (2) and 222(1)). It also is found in marine insurance (e.g. the U.K.’s Marine Insurance Act, 1906, 7 Edw. VII, c. 41, sect. 39; see text in Tetley, Int’l M. & A. L., 2003, Appendix “O” at pp. 825-859). See also Canada’s Marine Insurance Act, S.C. 1993, c. 21, sect. 37), as well as in general average (see this maritime law term in this legal dictionary). See Tetley, Int’l. M. & A. L., 2003 at pp. 162-163 (charterparties), 599-601 (marine insurance), 52-53 (general average).

Seaworthiness in Admiralty Law

For information on seaworthiness in this context, see the entry on seaworthiness in the maritime law encyclopedia.






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