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Carriage of goods by sea

Module information>

Academic Direction
UCL, Queen Mary University of London
Modes of Study

The law of Carriage of Goods by Sea is generally referred to as Dry Shipping Law because it mainly focuses on the legal implications of the agreements for the transport of cargoes by sea and for the chartering of vessels. The business of carriage of goods by sea is obviously risky. The cargo may arrive late or not at all. How are the various risks allocated between the carriers and the various other parties who might have an interest in the ship and her cargo? Contract of carriage can come in various shapes and in this course you will study the two main forms of contract and carriage and their uses.

Module A: Contracts of affreightment and voyage charter parties


  • Owners’ implied obligations: seaworthiness, reasonable despatch and no deviation; consequences for breach under common law; conditions, warranties, innominate terms; representations (descriptions of ship, date of arrival, cancelling
  • Charterers’ obligations: nomination of safe port, notification of owners of dangerous cargo
  • Voyage Charter parties: Owners’ obligation as to the ship, readiness to load and cancelling clauses; Charterers’ duty to load a full and complete cargo; Loading and discharging; Laytime and demurrage; Freight, lien and cesser clauses

Module B: Time charter parties


  • Nature; description of ship, delivery date and cancelling clause; charter period; early or late redelivery; remedies arising from early or late delivery; payment of hire; off-hire; deductions from hire; withdrawal of ship for no punctual payment; employment and indemnity clause; owners' liens on freight or sub-freight

Module C: The bill of lading contract and functions


  • The bill of lading as a contract; incorporation of charter party terms; identity of carrier; the bill of lading and third parties
  • The bill of lading as a receipt; representations as to quantity, condition and identity (leading marks) of cargo; common law and statutory estoppel
  • The bill of lading as a document of title and the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992
  • Legal functions of other types of transport document: seaway bills, ship’s delivery orders and multimodal transport documents

Module D: International conventions regulating the rights and obligations of the parties to the bill of lading contract


  • The Hague and Hague–Visby Rules; the Hamburg Rules; the Rotterdam Rules; genesis of the Rules and comparison. When do these rules apply? Excluded cases; period covered; no contracting out; the carrier’s duties; the carrier’s defences; responsibilities of cargo owner or shipper. Freight
  • Time limit for making a claim; limitation of liability


Each module is assessed by a 45-minute unseen written exam.


It is strongly recommended you attempt the modules in order.