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王燕:厦门海事法院有关提单下货物续运费用索赔纠纷案例(中英文)

发布日期:2016-08-18

       一基本案情

       2010年4月许,原告C公司自S公司CIF购买一批印度铁矿砂(下称“货物”)。S公司程租“J”轮以承运货物。2010年4月25日,货物装船后,装港代理代表“J”轮船长(For and on behalf of Master)签发了租约提单(下称“提单”)。提单上的“收货人”和“通知方”均记载为“To Order”;装港为印度某港,卸港为中国某一主要港口;运费支付按2010年4月14日航次租船合同(下称“租约”)的约定;提单背面条款载明,约定提单正面所载日期的租约的所有条款和条件、自由和免责(包括法律适用和仲裁条款)并入提单,;同时,提单背面条款中所含“首要条款”写明《海牙规则》适用于提单。之后,提单全套正本经背书转让给了R公司。

       2010年5月9日,“J”轮航行至汕头附近海域时与他船相撞(下称“事故”),导致一部分货物受损,船舶无法继续航行,“J”轮船东委托拖轮救助。部分货物卸到救助驳船上随驳船运往厦门港,剩余货物随“J”轮拖航到漳州港并于2010年6月19日卸在码头。2010年6月23日,“J”轮进舟山某修船厂修理。

       事故发生后,C公司两次召集货物运输保险人、两碰撞船的船东、救助方、S公司等各方代表开协调会,讨论包括货物的衡重、品质检验、估损方法和机构、各方工作及文件资料、货物转运等善后处理事宜。第二次协调会开会时间为2010年8月11日。经讨论,形成了会议纪要,确定货物转船运往目的地,并要求“J”轮船东配合办理相关手续。

       2010年8月19日,C公司与Z公司签定租船合同,租用Z公司的“D”轮将货物自厦门和漳州港运往事故发生前已确定的卸货港。2010年9月5日~8日,全部货物在厦门港和漳州港装船并安全运抵卸货港,因此产生了续运费用约36万美元和额外的港口代理费等费用(下称“续运费用”)。

       期间,2010年8月13日,应“J”轮船东的要求,修船厂出具《说明》,证明“J”轮进厂修理,并称预计修理工程将于2010年9月18日结束。同日,“J”轮船东将《证明》发给C公司,且《证明》交给C公司用于货物运抵卸货港时办理货物报关手续。2010年9月13日,中国船级社为“J”轮出具临时入级证书;“J”轮修理完毕后于2010年9月17日离开修船厂。

随后,C公司向厦门海事法院起诉,要求“J”轮船东赔偿续运费用。

       二案件主要争议焦点

       1. 本案的适用法律

       C公司主张,因租约并未随提单一并转让,其作为提单受让人,并不知道租约的存在及其内容,更无法就这些租约的内容与作为承运人的“J”轮船东达成合意。因此,租约的相关内容不应作为审理本案的依据,本案应依据提单适用法律审理。

“J”轮船东抗辩,租约已提交,且租约已记载在提单上,故租约已有效并入提单。依租约有关适用法律的约定和提单背面条款的约定,本案应适用英国法审理。

       2. “J”轮船东对于碰撞事故造成的货物迟延交付是否可免责,是否应承担续运费用

       C公司主张,在提单所证明的海上货物运输合同下,将货物继续安全运往卸货港并在卸货港交付货物仍是作为提单项下承运人“J”轮船东的义务,并不因事故的发生而被免除;续运费用也非承运人免责事项所适用的损失范畴;事故发生后,“J”轮船东同意货物由它船转运至卸货港,但“J”轮船东并未安排替代船,且“J”轮船东通知“J”轮预计将于2010年9月18日修好时,距事故发生日已逾三个多月;“J”轮船东还多次表示如无无人不支付其运费或租金的,不会将货物续运往卸货港;C公司为保证货物及时运往卸货港,完成提单项下本应由“J”轮船东完成的货物运输,不得不与Z公司签订了租船合同。故“J”轮船东应承担C公司为完成货物的剩余航次运输而支出的续运费用。

       “J”轮船东抗辩称,“J”轮船东从未同意货物由它船转运至卸货港;再者,因租约已有效并入提单,租约约定的适用法律英国法自然适用提单;依英国法,“J”轮船东作为承运人在碰撞后虽仍有义务完成货物运送,但船东在合理速遣的情况下开展修理工作的,有权等待船舶修理完毕后履行剩余航程,而并无义务另租船替代运输。货方可自行安排续运,但风险和费用由其自行承担,故续运费用不应由“J”轮船东承担。

       三 法院判决要点

       厦门海事法院(下称“法院”)经审理后认定:

       1.租约是否并入提单

       法院认定,C公司未能提供相反证据证明“J”轮船东提交的租约并非提单正面记载了日期的写明并入提单的租约。故租约即为提单并入条款指向的租约,租约有效并入了提单。

       2.适用法律

       法院认定,C公司与“J”轮船东间成立提单所证明海上货物运输合同关系。提单背面条款规定的租约并入条款有效,依租约约定应适用英国法。但当事人选择适用外国法,由当事人提供或证明该外国法律的内容。“J”轮船东未提供相关判例或可佐证的文献著述证明英国法的内容,因此在英国法无法查明的情况下,本案应适用中国法。

       3. 双方是否就货物由C公司自行租船续运达成合意

       法院认为,C公司未能举证证明双方就货物由原告自行租船续运达成一致意见。

       4.管辖权

       法院认定,租约已有效并入提单,故租约中约定的香港仲裁条款并入提单。但C公司在起诉时未声明有仲裁协议,“J”轮船东在首次开庭前亦为提出异议。故依《中华人民共和国仲裁法》第26条的规定视为放弃仲裁协议。因海上货物运输合同的转运港为厦门港、漳州港,故法院对本案有管辖权。

       5.驾驶和管理船舶过失和金康94租约第2条“船东责任”条款等免责事由是否适用

       法院认定,本案的纠纷类型为因迟延而生的替代履行的损害赔偿争议,不涉及货物的灭失损坏,因此《海商法》第50条规定的迟延交付货物的规定和第51条规定驾驶和管理船舶过失的免责事由不适用本案。此外,提单虽并入金康94租约第2条“船东责任”条款,但该第2条款所约定的免责事项因超出提单背面的“首要条款”载明适用的《海牙规则》规定的承运人免责而无效。另一方面,《中华人民共和国合同法》(下称“《合同法》”)第53条规定,合同中免除因故意或重大过失造成对方财产损失的责任的免责条款无效,故提单并入的租约的条款和本身作为提单条款的《海牙规则》所赋予承运人的免责,均应受这一规定的约束。

       6. “J”轮船东是否应承担续运费用

       法院认定,《合同法》第290条规定,承运人应当在约定期间或合理期间内将货物安全运输到约定地点。本案中,承运船“J”轮发生事故,并未导致合同彻底不能履行,承运人仍有在合理时间内继续完成货物运输的义务。

法院还认定,“J”轮船东应在合理时间内修缮船舶。合理时间内不能完成修理的,应当改以替代船只续运货物,仅于修理船舶或寻找替代船舶所需的合理时间内可以免除延迟的责任。本案中,C公司要求“J”轮船东履行继续运输货物的义务,于货物卸下后一个多月发函催告未果,另行签订租船合同运输货物,不能得出其订租的船舶有失合理的结论。而“J”轮船东任由数百万美元的货物在中途港滞留三个月,静等船舶修理后继续运输,有违诚实信用原则和商业活动中应当遵循的一般做法要求,成立重大过失。故“J”轮船东不能依提单条款的规定免除责任,应赔偿C公司因续运货物产生的合理费用和损失。

       综上,法院判决“J”轮船东承担C公司另行租用船舶运送货物而支付的上述续运费用和额外的港口代理费用。

       本案未上诉。

 

       Judgment by Xiamen Maritime Court
       Concerning Disputes of On-Carriage Freight of Cargoes under B/L

       Basic Fact
       In April 2010 or about, the plaintiff C Company ordered a consignment of Indian iron ore (hereunder called “cargo”) from S Company. On 25 April 2010, the port of loading agent signed charterparty B/L (hereunder called “B/L”) for and on behalf of Master after the cargoes were loaded onboard. The Consignee and Notify Party were stated as “To Order” on B/L. The port of loading is a port of India and the port of discharge is a major port in China. The freight is paid as per the stipulations of the voyage charterparty dated 14 April 2010 (hereunder called “the Charterparty”). The terms on the back of B/L stated that all the terms, conditions, entitlements and exemptions, including applicable law clause and arbitration clause of the Charterparty, the date of which was defined on the face of the B/L are incorporated into B/L. Also the paramount clause included in the back terms of the B/L stated that the Hague Rules applied to the B/L. Then the full set of original B/L was transferred to R Company.

       On 9 May 2010, Vessel “J” collided with other vessel when sailed in the sea area near Shantou (hereunder called “the accident”), which caused cargoes partially damaged and the Vessel could not set sail. The Owners of Vessel “J” assigned tugboat for salvage. Part of the cargoes were discharged to the salvage barge and carried to Xiamen Port together with the barge. The rest of the cargoes together with Vessel “J” were towed to Zhangzhou Port and discharged to the dock on 19 June 2010. On 23 June 2010, Vessel “J” sailed into a shipyard in Zhoushan for repair.

       After the accident, the plaintiff called together cargo shipment insurer, owners of both colliding vessels, the salvage party and S Company for coordination meetings twice, discussing the matters including the measurement, quality inspection, damage assessment method of the captioned cargoes, the work content and document of parties concerned and the transshipment of the cargoes. The second coordination meeting was held on 11 August 2010. A meeting minute was recorded after discussions, determined the cargoes to be transshipped to the destination and the owner of Vessel “J” was required to cooperate to handle formalities. On 19 August 2010, C Company concluded a charteparty with Z Company to charter Vessel “D” of Company Z to carry the captioned cargoes from Xiamen and Zhangzhou Port to the port of discharge which was determined prior to the accident. On 5-8 September 2010, all the cargoes were loaded onboard at the port of Xiamen and Zhangzhou, carried to the port of discharge safely and then discharged, which incurred on-carriage freight in sum of USD360,000 and extra port agency expenses (hereunder called “on-carriage freight”).

       On 13 August 2010, as required by owners of Vessel “J”, the shipyard issued a statement, illustrating Vessel “J” had entered into shipyard for repair and the repair work would be finished till 18 September 2010. On the same day, owners of Vessel “J” relayed the statement to C Company for C Company’s use of custom declaration when cargoes arrived at port of discharge. On 13 September 2010, Chinese Classification Society issued Interim Certificate of Class for Vessel “J”. On 17 September 2010, Vessel “J” finished repairing and left the shipyard.

After that, C Company filed a lawsuit against owners of Vessel “J” before Xiamen Maritime Court, claiming for the aforementioned on-carriage freight in approximate sum of USD360,000 and extra port agency expenses, etc.

Key Issues
       1.Applicable law

       C Company contended that, since the charterparty was not transferred together with B/L, C Company had no way to learn about the contents and existence of the charterparty as the transferee of B/L, let alone to reach an agreement with owners of Vessel “J” on the contents of the charterparty. So the terms of the charterparty should not be the basis of the judgment. The applicable law of the case should be same as that of B/L.

       Owners of Vessel “J” argued that, the charterparty was submitted and indicated on the B/L and was consequently incorporated into B/L. According to the applicable law as per the charterparty and back terms of B/L, the applicable law of this case should be English law.

       2.Whether the Owners Could Be Exempted from Liabilities for Late Delivery Due to Collision and Should Assume the On-carriage Freight

       C Company contended that, under the contract of carriage of goods by sea which is proven by B/L, it is the liability of owners of Vessel “J” as B/L carrier to carry the cargoes to the destination safely and delivered same at destination, which could not be exempted by the accident. The on-carriage freight should not be deemed as losses applied to the exemption of carrier. After the accident, owners of Vessel “J” agreed to carry the cargoes by other vessel to the destination. However, the owners of Vessel “J” did not arrange an alternative vessel. It was over three months since the date of the accident when the owners informed that Vessel “J” would finish repairing on 18 September 2010. Owners of Vessel “J” also expressed several times that they would not carry the cargoes to the destination if the freight or hire was not paid. For the purpose of carrying the cargoes to destination on time and fulfilling the shipment which should be done by owners of Vessel “J” under B/L, C Company had to enter into a charterparty with Z Company. Thus owners of Vessel “J” should assume the on-carriage freight incurred to C Company of the remaining voyage for the cargoes.

       Owners of Vessel “J” argued that, they never agreed to carry the cargoes by other vessel to the destination. Besides, since the charterparty was incorporated into B/L effectively, English law as applicable law stipulated on the charterparty should also apply to B/L. According to English law, although owners of Vessel “J” as carrier have obligations to fulfill the shipment of the cargoes after collision accident, the owners are entitled to arrange repair work with reasonable dispatch and have no duty to charter an alternative vessel to arrange shipment. The cargo interests could arrange shipment by themselves, however the risks and expenses should be assumed by themselves. Thus the on-carriage freight should not be assumed by owners of Vessel “J”.

 Main Points of The Judgment
       After hearing, Xiamen Maritime Court judged as follows:    

       1.      Whether the charterparty was incorporated into B/L

       The Court held that, C Company did not provide reverse evidence to prove that the charterparty submitted by owners of Vessel “J” was not the charterparty incorporated into the B/L by stating the date on the face of B/L. So the Charterparty was that referred to by the incorporation clause of B/L and the Charterparty was incorporated into B/L effectively.

       2.      Applicable law

       The Court held that, C Company entered into a contract of carriage of goods by sea with owners of Vessel “J”. The incorporation clause on back side of B/L was effective and the applicable law should be English law as per stipulations of Charterparty. However, in the circumstances when parties concerned choose to apply foreign law, the contents of the foreign law should be supplied or proven by parties concerned. Owners of Vessel “J” did not provide any judicial precedent or literature to prove the stipulations of English law. Consequently, this case shall apply to Chinese law when the stipulations of English law could not be ascertained.

       3.      Whether parties concerned reached an agreement on C Company’s shipment arrangement by themselves

       The Court held that, C Company did not submit evidence to prove both parties had reached an agreement on the shipment arrangement by themselves.

       4.      Jurisdiction

       The Court held that, the Charterparty was incorporated into B/L effectively and the Hong Kong arbitration clause stipulated in the charterparty was incorporated into B/L. However, C Company did not declare the existence of arbitration agreement when filed the lawsuit and owners of Vessel “J” did not file an objection at the time of first court hearing. Consequently, according to Clause 26 of PRC Arbitration Law, it is deemed as an abandonment of arbitration agreement. In light that the port of transshipment is Xiamen and Zhangzhou Port, this Court has jurisdiction over the case.

       5.      Whether the exemptions including the fault of navigation and ship-management and owners’        liability stipulations in clause 2 of Gencon 94 charterparty applied to the case.

       The Court held that, the category of the case is concerning disputes in relation to damages caused by alternative performance due to late, which is irrelevant to losses or damages of cargoes. Consequently, the stipulations of late delivery of cargoes in Clause 50 and exemptions of fault of navigation and ship-management in Clause 51 of Chinese Maritime Code did not apply to the case. Besides, although stipulations of owners’ liability in clause 2 of Gencon 94 charterparty were incorporated into B/L, the exemptions in clause 2 exceeded the stipulations of Hague Rules which was applied according to statement of paramount clause on the back side of B/L and were consequently invalid. Additionally, according to Clause 53 of Contract Law of PRC (hereunder called “Contract Law”), the exemption clause which exempt one parties’ liabilities for other parties’ property damages due to willful misconduct or gross negligence is invalid. Consequently, the exemptions of carrier stipulated by the incorporated charterparty and Hague Rules as B/L terms should be bound by such stipulations.

       6.    Whether owners of Vessel “J” should assume on-carriage freight

       The Court held that, according to Clause 290 of Contract Law, carrier should carry the cargoes to the appointed destination at agreed time or within reasonable period. In this case, the collision of Vessel “J” did not lead to the non-performance of the contract and the carrier was still obliged to fulfill the shipment within reasonable time.

       The Court also held that, owners of Vessel “J” should repair the Vessel within reasonable time. In cases the Vessel could not be repaired within reasonable time, alternative vessel should be arranged to carry the cargoes. The carrier could be exempted from liabilities for late only within reasonable time for repairing the vessel or seeking for alternative vessel. In this case, C Company demanded owners of Vessel “J” to fulfill its obligation of cargo carriage, served notice after cargoes were discharged for over one month and concluded another charterparty to carry the cargoes, all of which could not lead to the conclusion that the chartered vessel was not reasonable. On the other hand, owners of Vessel “J” leaved the cargoes which valued several millions of dollars at the port of transshipment, waiting the vessel to be repaired to fulfill the shipment, which violated the principle of good faith and general rules in business practices and constituted gross negligence. Thus owners of Vessel “J” could not be exempted from liabilities according to B/L terms and should compensate reasonable on-carriage expenses and losses to C Company.

       In conclusion, the Court judged that owners of Vessel “J” assumed the above on-carriage freight and extra port agency expenses incurred to C Company due to chartering alternative vessel for cargo carriage.
This judgment was not appealed.

 

       本文仅代表作者个人观点,不代表所在单位立场。欢迎实务界、司法界同仁交流、探讨。交流邮箱:shangshizhengyi@deheng.com
       作者简介:


       王燕律师,北京德和衡(上海)律师事务所执业律师。擅长领域:海事海商、国际贸易与保险、投融资与并购、资本市场与证券等领域。王燕律师曾任海丰国际控股有限公司任法务主管,全面负责公司运营过程中各类法律风险防范、争议解决等法律事务,包括保险、货物理赔、租约纠纷、船舶买卖纠纷、超期货物处理、诉讼仲裁、法律事务咨询及风险防范、流程规范等各项公司法律事务,并根据处理经验规范公司各项流程。还曾任职于远东国际租赁有限公司从事资产管理工作,对船舶及物流行业融资租赁项目进行投后管理,并对项目运营过程中各类风险防范及控制出具专业性、可操作性强的法律意见。王燕律师执业以来,为数十家国内外知名航运企业、保险机构、金融机构等提供了高效、优质的一站式法律服务,获得了客户的高度赞扬。

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