Eastern City

In The Eastern City (1958) Lord Justice Sellars said that a port will not be safe unless in the relevant period of time the particular ship can reach it, use it and return from it without, in the absence of some abnormal occurrence, being exposed to damage which cannot be avoided by good navigation and seamanship. In that case the vessel was to proceed to “one or two safe ports in Morocco”. The charterer directed the vessel to Mogador. Two days after arrival the weather deteriorated and the vessel dragged her anchor and went aground. There was a breach of the safe port obligation but not just because of the storm. Mogador had little shelter, was susceptible to sudden weather changes and was not safe for vessels of the size of Eastern City. Safety of a nominated port is judged when the order is given. The charterer is not responsible if a port, apparently safe when nominated later becomes unsafe. A port is not safe if when nominated it is likely to become unsafe before the ship gets there. In The Evia (1982) the vessel was ordered to carry a cargo of cement from Cuba to Basrah. Basrah was then safe and seemed likely to remain so. Evia arrived in July but was unable to berth until August 20. Discharging was completed on September 22 the date on which Iran/Iraq conflict broke into open war and the Shatt-el Arab waterway (which leads from Basrah to the Gulf) was closed. Evia was trapped. It was held that there was no breach of the safe port obligation.