Ship Cargoworthiness

Ship Cargoworthiness

The second limb of the warranty was described thus by Viscount Finlay in his dissenting opinion in Elder Dempster & Co Vs Paterson, Zochonis & Co Case.

The Ship Seaworthiness which is in question in the present case is of a totally different nature, and relates to the fitness of the vessel for the reception of particular goods, and the absence of such fitness is described as unseaworthiness.

It is unfortunate that for this purpose no more suitable term has been devised, as the use of the term unseaworthiness in this connection is apt to lead to confusion.

The term unseaworthy is not apt to describe the unfitness of the vessel for the carriage of particular goods.


Ship Seaworthiness Vs Cargoworthiness

It was for this reason that it became usual to refer to this distinct second form of seaworthiness as Cargoworthiness.

Cargoworthiness is a separate aspect of seaworthiness, which requires the vessel to be reasonably fit to receive and carry the cargo tendered.

The MATIANA loaded lemons in Naples for carriage to London. The charter gave owners the liberty to call at a French port. Owing to the fact that she had previously been to a plague port, it was inevitable under existing French law that she would have to undergo deratisation by sulphur fumigation, if she called at any French port.

As intended by Shipowners, the ship called at Marseille where she underwent the required fumigation, which inevitably damaged the lemons. It was held that the ship was unseaworthy, because she was unfit to receive and carry this particular cargo in the light of the mandatory enforcement of French sanitary or port regulations, which would inevitably damage such a cargo.

What is Cargoworthiness in Ship Chartering?

“Cargoworthiness” in ship chartering refers to the condition of a ship that makes it suitable and safe for carrying specific types of cargo. It’s a key consideration when hiring a vessel, as it has significant implications for the safety of the goods being transported and for liability in the event of damage.

The concept of cargoworthiness encompasses various aspects of the ship’s condition. Here are a few key points:

  1. Structural Integrity: The vessel must be structurally sound, with no defects that could compromise the safety of the cargo. This includes the condition of the hull, decks, hatches, and all cargo spaces.
  2. Suitability for the Specific Cargo: The ship must be appropriate for the type of cargo it is to carry. For instance, a ship carrying bulk grain would need different facilities compared to a vessel carrying containers or liquid bulk cargo. Specialized cargo such as chemicals or refrigerated goods may require special equipment and facilities.
  3. Proper Equipment and Facilities: The ship must have all necessary equipment for the safe handling and stowage of the cargo, and this equipment must be in good working order. This can include cranes, winches, and derricks for loading and unloading, as well as any necessary equipment for securing the cargo during transit.
  4. Cleanliness: The cargo spaces must be clean and free from any residues that could contaminate the cargo. For certain types of cargo, such as foodstuffs, the standards of cleanliness may be very high.
  5. Safety Compliance: The vessel must be compliant with all relevant safety regulations and standards, such as those set out by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). This includes having all necessary safety equipment and having a properly trained crew.
  1. Stability: A ship must be stable enough to withstand different sea conditions. Incorrect distribution of cargo can significantly affect a ship’s stability, leading to severe consequences like capsizing. Therefore, proper planning for cargo loading and distribution is an integral part of ensuring cargoworthiness.
  2. Documentation: All required certificates and documents should be up to date. These documents include safety certificates, classification certificates, cargo gear certificates, and others that provide proof of the ship’s compliance with various international and local regulations.
  3. Cargo Securing: The cargo needs to be secured properly for the voyage. This can involve lashing, blocking, or other techniques depending on the nature of the cargo. Poorly secured cargo can shift during the voyage, potentially damaging the cargo itself, the ship, or even causing a loss of stability.
  4. Crew Competence: The crew members should be well trained and competent in handling the type of cargo the ship is carrying. They should also be familiar with all necessary safety procedures and emergency protocols.
  5. Maintenance: Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure the ship remains cargoworthy. This involves routine inspections and necessary repairs to all parts of the ship, from the engine room to the cargo holds.
  6. Weather Considerations: Sometimes, even a perfectly cargoworthy ship can become unsuitable due to extreme weather conditions. For instance, certain cargoes might require transport at specific temperatures and could be damaged by extreme heat or cold.

The shipowner is typically responsible for ensuring the cargoworthiness of the vessel. If a ship is found to be not cargoworthy, the charterer may be entitled to cancel the charter, and the shipowner could be liable for any damage caused to the cargo as a result of the vessel’s unseaworthiness. Therefore, cargoworthiness is a significant concern in ship chartering.

Seaworthiness Vs Cargoworthiness

The difference between ship seaworthiness and cargoworthiness.

  1. Ship Seaworthiness: This refers to the condition of the ship itself. A ship is considered seaworthy if it is in a fit state in terms of structure, equipment, crew, and supplies to encounter the ordinary perils of the seas of the adventure insured. This includes being properly manned, fuelled, and provisioned, having all necessary documents for the voyage, and not having any defects hidden from the charterer. Key aspects of ship seaworthiness include:
    • Structural Integrity: The hull, decks, and superstructures must be in good condition. They should be free from any damage that could compromise the ship’s ability to sail or carry cargo.
    • Machinery and Equipment: The ship’s engines, steering mechanisms, navigational devices, safety equipment, and other systems should be in proper working order.
    • Crew Competency: The ship should have a full complement of trained and competent officers and crew members.
    • Provisions and Stores: The ship should have sufficient fuel, water, food, and other supplies for the voyage.
  2. Cargoworthiness: This refers to the ship’s capacity and suitability to safely carry the specific type of cargo it’s intended to transport without causing damage to the cargo. A ship can be seaworthy and not cargoworthy if it is not suitably equipped or prepared to carry a particular type of cargo.Key aspects of cargoworthiness include:
    • Cargo Spaces and Handling Equipment: The ship’s cargo holds, tanks, or decks must be suitable for the type of cargo being carried. The ship should also have the correct handling equipment for loading, stowing, securing, and unloading the cargo.
    • Cargo Preservation: Depending on the type of cargo, the ship may need special facilities like refrigeration, ventilation, or isolation.
    • Safety: The ship must meet all safety regulations related to the specific type of cargo. For example, ships carrying hazardous materials must have special safety measures in place.

It’s important to note that both seaworthiness and cargoworthiness are important responsibilities of the ship’s owner or operator. Failing to ensure the ship’s seaworthiness or cargoworthiness can lead to legal liability in the event of an accident, cargo damage, or other incidents.


Elder Dempster & Co Vs Paterson, Zochonis & Co Case and Cargoworthiness

“Elder Dempster & Co and Others v Paterson, Zochonis & Co” is a key English law case that revolves around the concept of cargoworthiness in the context of maritime law.

In this case, Elder Dempster & Co were the shipowners and Paterson, Zochonis & Co were the charterers. The ship in question was used to transport groundnuts, but the nuts were damaged en route due to the ship’s defective ventilation system.

The question at the heart of the case was whether the ship was “seaworthy” at the start of the voyage. Under the Hague Rules (international rules governing the carriage of goods by sea), a ship is required to be seaworthy before and at the beginning of the voyage. This includes not just the ship’s physical condition, but also its preparedness to carry the particular type of cargo it has been chartered to transport. In this case, that meant whether the ship’s ventilation system was adequate to carry the groundnuts without them becoming damaged.

The court found in favour of Paterson, Zochonis & Co. It held that even though the ship was physically seaworthy, it was not cargoworthy because its ventilation system was not fit to carry the groundnuts. This made the ship unseaworthy at the start of the voyage, which meant the shipowners were liable for the damage to the cargo.

This case is significant as it emphasized the importance of cargoworthiness as a key aspect of seaworthiness under the Hague Rules. It established that a ship must be fit to carry the specific cargo it has been chartered to transport, not just physically capable of making the voyage. This has important implications for shipowners and charterers when considering the types of cargo a ship can carry and the preparations needed before a voyage.

The Elder Dempster & Co and Others v Paterson, Zochonis & Co case is often cited because it clarified the extent of a shipowner’s duty of care to ensure a ship’s cargoworthiness. It made clear that “seaworthiness” is not a one-dimensional concept related solely to the physical condition of the ship but is a multi-dimensional one that includes the ship’s preparedness to handle specific types of cargo.

As a result of this ruling, shipowners must consider the unique needs of the cargo they’re contracted to carry. This means they must ensure that all systems relevant to the cargo’s preservation – such as ventilation for certain types of goods – are in good working order at the commencement of the voyage. This ruling has had a profound impact on the due diligence procedures that shipowners must now follow.

For charterers, the ruling was significant because it gave them a greater level of protection. They can now have more confidence that the shipowner will take all reasonable precautions to ensure the safe carriage of their goods.

Moreover, this case has had implications beyond the shipping industry. It has been cited in legal disputes involving the carriage of goods in other contexts, including air and land transport. The principle that the carrier must ensure the transport vessel is fit not just for travel, but for the specific goods it carries, has been incorporated into broader transport law.

In sum, the Elder Dempster case is a landmark in maritime law due to its expansion of the concept of seaworthiness. It has had a lasting impact on the obligations of shipowners and the protections afforded to charterers, shaping the legal landscape of cargo transportation.


Name of the Vessel: MV HandyBulk Maritime Explorer
Type of Vessel: Bulk Carrier
IMO Number: 8234567
Flag: The Republic of Panama
Gross Tonnage: 50,000 GT
Date of Inspection: May 16, 2023
Location of Inspection: Port of Los Angeles, USA
Report Prepared By: John Doe, Maritime Safety Inspector

1. Structural Integrity:

The hull and superstructure showed no signs of corrosion or damage. The watertight integrity is preserved with all doors, hatches, and scuttles in good condition. The vessel complies with the SOLAS regulations for structural stability.

2. Navigation Equipment:

All navigational equipment including radar, GPS, ECDIS, gyrocompass, and AIS were functioning properly. The ship is equipped with updated sea charts.

3. Communication Equipment:

VHF radios, satellite communication, and GMDSS equipment are in working condition and comply with the current IMO regulations.

4. Safety Equipment:

The vessel is equipped with the necessary lifesaving appliances (lifeboats, life rafts, life jackets, EPIRBs) which are in good condition. Firefighting equipment, including fire extinguishers and fire detection systems, is operational.

5. Cargo Handling Gear:

Cranes, winches, and derricks are in operational condition. The cargo holds are clean, dry, and ready for cargo. Hatch covers are in working order and provide a tight seal.

6. Machinery:

Main and auxiliary engines, generators, and other essential machinery are in a good state of maintenance. No oil leaks or abnormal noises were observed.

7. Crew Competency:

The crew demonstrated knowledge of their duties and responsibilities. Required certification and documentation as per STCW were present and valid.

8. Environmental Compliance:

The vessel is equipped with a functioning oily water separator, sewage treatment plant, and is compliant with MARPOL regulations. Garbage management plan is in place and in use.


The MV HandyBulk Maritime Explorer has passed the inspection and is deemed seaworthy and fit for cargo operations. The vessel complies with all relevant international and national regulations and shows good maintenance.

This report is valid for one year from the date of inspection unless significant changes or incidents occur that could affect the vessel’s seaworthiness.


John Doe, Maritime Safety Inspector
Date: May 16, 2023