Where Cargo Carried by a Vessel has been Delivered, Where lies the Jurisdiction?

NOMSAL MARKETING AND SUPPLY LTD

2.     MR. JOHNNY I. IFEANYI

                                         V

1.      JOASY PEN ENTERPRISES LTD

Facts

The Plaintiff is Company registered in Nigeria, it carries on the business of transporter, hiring of Barges/Tugs supplies and general contractor.

By an agreement dated 29/5/96 the plaintiff agreed to hire Tugboat called “Praise Jah” to the 1st Defendant, the consideration was #28,000.00 daily payable in advance. The agreement was to last from 1st of June 1996 to 5/7/96, a period of 35 days. The 1st Defendant made a deposit of #350, 000.00. at the expiry of the agreement the plaintiff on 7/7/96 issued its invoice No. 0133 to the 1st Defendant demanding the balance of #630,000.00.

The 2nd Defendant, who is the chairman and the Managing Director of the 1st Defendant, and the 1st Defendant made a number of unfulfilled promises to pay the balance. The plaintiff filed a writ of summon against the Defendants it also obtained leave of the lower court to place the suit on the undefended list. 

The Plaintiff claimed against the Defendants jointly and severally for the sum of #630,000.00(six Hundred and thirty thousand Naira Only) being the amount from the defendant to the plaintiff in respect of the hire/charter agreement entered into by the parties as well as interest rate at 10% per annum on the judgment debt until same is finally liquidated.

The Defendants did not file an intention to defend the case but however brought a motion on notice praying the court by way of preliminary objection for an order striking out dismissing the suit in its entirety for wants of jurisdiction in admiralty matters. The lower court heard the objection and also considered the merit of the suit whereby he entered judgment in favor of the Plaintiff.

Being dissatisfied, the Defendants appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Judgment

1. For a claim in admiralty to arise, the cargo or goods must still be in the vessel. It follows that the admiralty jurisdiction of the Federal High Court cannot be invoked once the goods carried by a ship have been discharged or delivered to a point of destination of the cargo. In the instant case the dispute arose from the failure of the appellant to pay for the balance of the service rendered to it by the respondent and nothing beyond that happened. Therefore, the cause is simply one of debt owed and not one founded on admiralty and the High Court had jurisdiction to entertain it. 

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