Assume Aumit and Aron, the two shippers from Mongla entered into two separate contracts with Sam to deliver goods at Paragon port of Grace which is an independent state. Both countries are parties to relevant international conventions regarding carriage of goods by sea and belong to the common legal system. Under a contract with Aumit, Sam agreed to deliver Oxidize Oxfam (OXO) which is considered ‘dangerous goods’ under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. Accordingly, OXO required specific arrangements employed in the ship and careful handling. In particular, OXO was ‘known to increase the risk and intensity of fire in other materials because it tended to yield oxygen when heated.’ During stowage there was evidence that the ‘cargo was placed in a hold directly above the bottom centre fuel tank―a heated tank.’ In the middle of the voyage the crew heated the fuel to abnormally high temperatures which caused OXO to suffer thermal runaway leading to a destructive fire. In a desperate attempt to avert the fire, the master had to scuttle the ship and the cargo was lost during the scuttling operation. Sam now wishes to invoke a strict liability claim against Aumit on various grounds such as he was not aware of the risk inherent in OXO and that a strong wave made the ship volatile and so on. Aumit contests these allegations, arguing that the reason was ‘bad stowage’ and Sam failed to exercise due diligence in making the ship shipworthy.
The contract with Aron required Sam to deliver goods within three months (since the contract concluded) at Paragon. During this three-month period, there was no reason to believe that the hostile relations of Grace with its neighbour will turn into a war. The vessel took an extra 15 days to reach Paragon partly because it had to save human ‘life’. The war, however, formally broke up upon its arrival to Paragon, and the goods were not delivered. Aron argues that the contract has been frustrated due to the delay and the ‘self-motivated initiative’ to secure the property as well. Sam contends that Aron is in breach of safe port obligation.
Answer the following:
- What are the possible legal issues raised in the above scenario from the perspective of an international contract of carriage of goods by sea? Identify and examine briefly specific laws, international standards and judicial decisions that can be relevant to adequately deal with those issues. (12 Marks)
- What grounds does Aumit need to establish to have suitable remedies? Substantiate your argument by relying on relevant standards/laws and judicial decisions. (6 Marks)
- Do you think Aron has a chance of succeeding in a legal battle? Why or why not? Defend your views with special reference to the legal and judicial support. (6 Marks)
- Evaluate the liabilities of Sam in both cases as raised in the scenario. Advise Sam of his immunities if any. (6 Marks)
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