Disponent Owner

If a shipowner seeks to introduce into his bill of lading a clause which is quite out of keeping with customary practice, he ought not only to make it clear in words but also to make it conspicuous by inserting it in such type and in such part of the document that a person of ordinary capacity could not fail to see it. A bill of lading is not the contract but only evidence of the contract and it does not follow that a person who accepts the bill of lading which the shipowner hands him is necessarily and without regard to circumstances bound to abide by all its stipulations. Where a charterer charters the ship to carry goods for himself, then the bill of lading is a receipt (and may be document of title as well) for the goods – it is neither evidence of nor the contract of carriage. The charter party contains the contract for the carriage of the goods as between the charterer and the shipowner. Where the shipper is not the consignee, the bill of lading is the contract of carriage between the owner and the consignee/indorsee. Problems can, and do, arise when the ship is on time charter, it raises the question of who is the carrier in the contract of carriage?  The shipper or voyage charterer will have made a contract with the time charterer – the disponent owner.  Should a cargo claim arise the shipper’s first recourse is naturally against the timecharterer although the damage to the goods may have been the fault of the ship. Where the problem can escalate is if the time charterer is tardy in dealing with the claim and the merchant decides to arrest the ship. Almost invariably, time charters have clauses which govern the manner in which these matters are resolved especially where the Master is required to sign B/Ls on behalf of the time charterer.