Degrees

Section 1 of the Maritime Conventions Act 1911, however, has been repealed and replaced by section 187 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 as follows: Where, by the fault of two or more ships, damage or loss is caused to one or more of those ships, to their cargoes or freight, or to any property on board, the liability to make good the damage or loss shall be in proportion to the degree in which each ship was in fault. If, in any such case, having regard to all the circumstances, it is not possible to establish different degrees of fault, the liability shall be apportioned equally. This section applies to persons other than the owners of a ship who are responsible for the fault of the ships, as well as the owners of a ship and where, by virtue of any charter or demise, or for any other reason, the owners are not responsible for the navigation and management of the ship, this section applies to the charterers or other persons for the time being so responsible instead of the owners. Nothing in this section shall operate so as to render any ship liable for any loss or damage to which the fault of the ship has not contributed. As section 187 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 only has relevance to the establishment of the degrees of blame of the vessels respectively and actually at fault, by the same token it does not restrict the right of any innocent vessel to sue either of two negligent vessels jointly or severally for its entire loss. No liability, of course, attaches to any ship whose fault has in no way contributed to the loss. ‘Freight’ for the purposes of the 1995 Act includes passage money and hire money. ‘Damages’ includes salvage or other expenses directly resulting from the collision. Section 187 is concerned with property damage and/or loss and has no application to personal injury or loss of life. These matters are dealt with under section 188 of the 1995 Act. Each claimant under this head is able to sue either of the two vessels at fault, for his full losses. Conversely, the defendant to the action is free to use any defences available to him in addition to his right to limit. Section 189 extends to the defendant shipowner whose fault is only partial, but who has to pay out damages for loss of life or personal injury in excess of his proportion of fault, the facility to claim contribution from the other vessels whose faults contributed to the damage/loss. A condition precedent to the exercising of this right is that the other ships concerned should have been liable directly to the innocent claimant in the first instance.