Proof of Unseaworthy Ship

The burden of proof of unseaworthiness will rest on the party alleging it, although in many cases he may be assisted by inferences drawn by the court. Thus the presence of seawater in the hold will normally be treated by the courts as prima facie evidence of unseaworthiness. Having established breach of this undertaking, however, it will then be incumbent on the claimant to establish that the unseaworthiness caused the loss of which he complains. In the case of International Packers v Ocean Steamship Co
a cargo of tinned meat shipped from Brisbane for Glasgow was damaged by seawater during the voyage as the result of tarpaulins being stripped from the hatch covers during a storm. On hearing that the vessel was equipped with locking bars designed to secure the hatches, the trial judge held that the loss was caused not by the unseaworthiness of the vessel but by the negligence of the crew in failing to makem use of the equipment provided. Similarly, the cargo owner will fail to discharge the burden of proof if it is clear that the damage resulted from bad stowage rather than from any unfitness of the vessel to receive the contract cargo.