The Master

When a bill of lading is issued for goods on a chartered ship the question arises whether the bill of lading in the hands of a shipper other than the charterer, or of a bona fide holder for value, is a contract with the shipowner or the charterer i.e. shipowners or charterers bills of lading. Where there is a demise (bareboat) charter the bill of lading contract will be with the charterer, as demise charterers are usually treated to all intents and purposes as if they were the shipowners.  A Master employed by a demise charterer will not be signing the bill of lading as agent for the shipowner. In the case of voyage or time charters the presumption will be that the contract will be with the shipowner the employer of the Master and crew of the vessel.  The Master will have authority to bind the shipowners as regards cargo-owners who are ignorant of any charter party arrangements. In The Starsin (2000) Mr Justice Colman said that the issue whether owners or time charterers are parties to the bills of lading contract arises almost always as a consequence of bills being issued on time charterers’ forms and bearing words in the signature box which it is argued supersede the effect of the identity of carrier clause and the demise clause.  As a matter of basic principle the resolution of the issue of the identity of the party undertaking the obligations of carriage, is one of construction of the words on the bill of lading.  A bill of lading signed for the Master cannot be a charterer’s bill unless the contract was made with the charterer alone and the person signing has authority to sign and does sign on behalf of the charterer and not the owners.