Endorsee

At common law the bill of lading is considered as being ‘prima facie’ evidence that the quantity of goods alleged to have been shipped has, in fact, been shipped. The shipowner, however, is entitled to show that the goods were never shipped. If he does so he will escape liability in respect of those goods. By ‘prima facie’ we mean ‘at first sight’. In other words, prima facie evidence is evidence at first sight only, which may be rebutted by the party against whom the evidence is offered. In Grant v Norway (1851) a bill of lading was signed by the Master for twelve bales of silk, which the shipowner proved had not been put on board. It was held that the Master had no authority to sign for goods not shipped and the holders of the bill of lading had no claim against the shipowner for non-delivery of these bales. Section 3 only provided that the bill of lading should be conclusive evidence that the goods represented to have been shipped were in fact shipped. Section 3 did not create actual liability on the part of the person who signed the bill of lading if the goods were in fact not actually shipped. Thus the ability of the consignee (who is not the shipper) and the endorsee, to sue on the contract of carriage, was dependant upon the property in the goods being vested in them upon the transfer of the bill of lading. Thus, it can be said that the Bills of Lading Act 1855 created a ‘marriage’ between entitlement to sue on the bill of lading contract and property in the goods.