Hague Visby Rules and its Application in Nigeria

  1.   G & C LINES

                   V

1.      MR. TUNJI OLALEYE

Facts:

The respondent sued the appellant at the Federal High Court; Ibadan claiming the sum of DM10, 821.14 (German currency) being the total cost of a used vehicle, Mitsubishi Starion which was bought in Germany and shipped to Nigeria by the respondent. The respondent also claimed the sum of #150,000.00 paid to the agent for payment of import duty, agency commission and other charges to effect the clearance of the vehicle from the port; and the sum of #200.00 daily for loss of use of the vehicle and the interest at the rate of 20% on the sum.

Upon being served with the court process, the appellant filed an application pursuant to Order 27 of the Federal High court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 1976 praying the court for an order dismissing the action on the ground that the suit was statute-barred based on the provision of the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, that the action was commenced outside of the period of one year of accrual of cause of Action. The respondent’s case was that the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act was not applicable. The trial court found that the suit was instituted over one year after the cause of action arose; it however held that Rules were inapplicable. The court held that the limitation period was six years and dismissed the application.

The appellant was dissatisfied with the ruling and he appealed to the Court of Appeal and the respondent also cross-appealed for some aspect of the ruling.

Judgment

1.     The provision of the Hague Visby Rules, Article 3 Rule 6 leaves no ground for ambiguity as to limitation of actions. The carrier and the ship shall be discharged from all liability in respect of loss or damage to the cargo unless the suit in respect of such loss or damage is brought within one year after delivery of the goods or date when the goods should have been delivered

2.     Article 3 Rules 6 of the Hague Visby Rules set out in the schedule to the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, provides that unless notice of loss given in writing to the carrier or his agent at the port of discharge before or at the time of removal of the goods into the custody of the person entitled to delivery thereof under the contract of carriage, or, if the loss or damage be not apparent, within three days, such removal shall be prima facie evidence of the delivery by the carrier of the goods as described in the bill of lading. The notice in writing need not be given if the state of the goods has at the time of their receipt been the subject of just survey or inspection. The carrier and the ship shall be discharged from all liability in respect of loss or damage unless the suit is brought within one year after delivery of the goods or the date when the goods should have been delivered. The provision of the section is clear, unambiguous and presents no difficulty in interpretation.

3. Section 2 of the Carriage of goods by Sea Act which provides that the Hagues Rules shall have effect in relation to and in connection with the carriage of goods by sea in ships carrying goods from any port in Nigeria to any other port whether in or outside Nigeria does not apply where the goods are carried from a port outside Nigeria to a port in Nigeria. 

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