Metvale Ltd v Monsanto International Sarl & Ors, Court of Appeal - Admiralty Division, December 09, 2008, [2008] EWHC 3002 (Admlty)

Resolution Date:December 09, 2008
Issuing Organization:Admiralty Division
Actores:Metvale Ltd v Monsanto International Sarl & Ors
 
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Neutral Citation Number: [2008] EWHC 3002 (Admlty)

Case No: 2007 FOLIO 185

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

ADMIRALTY COURT

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 09/12/2008

Before :

MR.JUSTICE TEARE

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Between :

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Nigel Jacobs QC (instructed by Fishers) for Hapag-Lloyd A-G

Peter Ferrer (instructed by Jackson Parton) for H. Stinnes Linien GmbH

Hearing dates: 5 November 2008

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Judgment

Mr. Justice Teare:

1. In January 2007 the MSC NAPOLI, a large container vessel, suffered damage in heavy weather and was beached on the south coast of England. That casualty has given rise to considerable claims against the owners of MSC NAPOLI (``the Claimants'') in excess of £100m. On 27 February 2007 the Claimants constituted a limitation fund (``the fund'') under the 1976 Limitation Convention (``the convention'') in the sum of £14,710,000. On 31 July the court made a General Limitation Decree.

2. On 13 March 2008 the Admiralty Registrar ordered the trial of two preliminary issues:

i) Whether Hapag-Lloyd AG (``HPL'') and Stinnes Linien GmbH (``Stinnes'') are shipowners for the purposes of Article 1 of the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976 (``The Convention'') and are entitled to limit their liability under the Convention and under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

ii) Whether, if the answer to (i) is yes, the limitation fund constituted in this action is deemed to be constituted by HPL under and for the purpose of the Convention and under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

3. This is the trial of those preliminary issues. The second issue does not mention Stinnes but I assume that the question raised also applies to them.

4. HPL were slot charterers of the vessel from Mediterranean Shipping Co. (``MSC'') under a slot charter agreement dated 29 August 2006. HPL issued its own bills of lading or seaway bills in respect of 172 laden containers. The bills provided for German law and jurisdiction. Stinnes were also slot charterers of the vessel from MSC pursuant to a slot charter agreement dated 15 October 2006. Stinnes issued 24 bills of lading which also provided for German law and jurisdiction.

5. Claims have been notified against HPL and Stinnes by the holders of the bills issued by HPL and Stinnes. HPL and Stinnes have lodged claims against the fund (by way of ADM20 forms) in respect of their claims for an indemnity in respect of cargo claims brought against them, the loss and damage of their own containers, general average and salvage claims and certain transhipment claims.

6. Most of the holders of bills issued by HPL and Stinnes have lodged claims against the fund by way of ADM20 forms. A very small number of claimants have instructed German lawyers but none has issued proceedings in Germany. Extensions of time have been granted by HPL until 20 January 2009.

7. No party has sought to challenge HPL's and Stinnes' right to limit. However, in the event that HPL and Stinnes are entitled to limit their liability and the fund is deemed to have been constituted by them then the German courts will be asked to direct enforcement of any claims brought in Germany against HPL and Stinnes to the fund. It is therefore necessary that this court give careful consideration to the claims of HPL and Stinnes to limit their liability because its decision will or may affect claimants in the German courts.

The Convention

8. The most material provisions of the convention are as follows:

``Article 1: Persons entitled to limit liability''

1. Shipowners and salvors, as hereinafter defined,...

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