Where there is a Conflict Between Charterparty and Bill of Lading

Where there is a Conflict Between Charterparty and Bill of Lading





The Plaintiff Ekimpex Ltd at the Port Harcourt Federal High Court brought the action against the Defendants (Appellants) seeking the following reliefs:-

  1. A declaration that the plaintiff is entitled to the delivery of 18,000 tons (360,000 bags) of cements the 5 barges, one tugboat and two mobile cranes also carried to port harcourt by the MV Cindy.
  2. An order of court that the said 18,000 tons (360,000 bags) of cements the 5 barges, one tugboat and two mobile cranes be delivered to the plaintiffs by the defendants.
  3. N1, 115,668.96 special and general damages for breach of contract to deliver the said cement on time and for carrying additional cargo..

The plaintiff, a limited liability company carried on mostly the business of importation of cement, the 1st Defendant was a company registered in Belgium, the 2nd Defendant was a company registered in Nigeria and agent of the 1st Defendant in Nigeria, while the 4th Defendant was registered in Greece and the Owner and Manager of the ship called and known as “MV Cindy”. In 1977 the plaintiff opened letter of credit to the 1st defendant through African Continental Bank, Lagos for the supply to it of 18,000 metric toonnes of cement to be delivered in port Harcourt.

The bill of lading covering the consignment of cement was sent to the plaintiff’s company through the Bank. When the ship arrived, the plaintiff was not allowed to take delivery of the consignment by the appellant until after some litigation. The plaintiff claimed that contrary to the agreement reached between him and the 1st Defendant, the ship carried other goods besides the cement negotiated for and these other goods damaged some bags of his cement.

He thereupon instituted that action against the four defendants, but with the disappearance of the two defendants from the suit, the action continued against the appellants, against whom the High court Judge awarded judgment as claimed in the writ of summons. He also awarded N200, 000.00 as damages for the damaged bags of cement and N120,000.00 as general damages.

The appellant appealed to the Court of appeal which confirmed the award of the lower court, N200, 000.00. They further appealed to the Supreme Court contending among other things that the Federal High Court had no jurisdiction to hear the action as the matter was not admiralty action


  1. A bill of lading is a receipt for the goods stating the terms on which they were delivered to and received by the ship and therefore an excellent evidence of those terms, but it is not a contract. That has been made before the Bill of Lading was given. Therefore when goods shipped under a charterparty and a bill of lading is in conflict, as between the ship owner and shipper, the charterparty is binding.
  2. The bill of lading is no contract between 3rd and 4th defendant of the one part and the plaintiff of the other part, and it imposes no contractual obligation on the defendant apart from obligation as a bailee of goods

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