Sea Waybills

Such a case did come before the courts in London when a container-load of television sets was hijacked during the road transport leg after an agreed change of place of inland destination.  The basis of the plaintiff’s argument was that the limitations of the Hague-Visby Rules could not apply because the actual B/L was “spent” on being discharged at the docks so that the on-carriage was a separate contract.  Nothing actually reached the Law Reports because the parties settled out of court when the plaintiffs realised that if it was held that the parties had not agreed to extend the B/L (and thus extend the B/L limitations) then the only other option was to argue that the line’s agents had acted as freight forwarders and they were well known to operate under their association’s standard trading conditions which included similar monetary limitations of liability as Hague-Visby. One of the problems of considering intermodalism in a course such as this is that although there is a vast amount of case law relating to bulk cargoes and non-containerised general cargo (some of it going back more than a century) there are, as yet, very few “landmark” cases in the container world. Sea Waybills are similar in many respects to B/Ls with one fundamental difference, they are non-negotiable.  There are, however many cases where the payment arrangements between buyer and seller do not require a letter of credit and there is no intention by the consignee to ‘sell the cargo on’.  All that is then required is for the contract to require the carrier to deliver the goods to a named consignee on satisfying himself of the consignee’s identity.  Not being a document of title there is no requirement to present it to the carrier to claim the goods and all the problems of cargo arriving before the B/Ls disappear.  This allows electronic communication to be exploited to the full as the ship’s manifest can be transmitted by fax (or other electronic means) and preparations to arrange delivery when the time comes can be made without undue haste.