Onus probandi in Art III.1 sea cargo claims: Did The Volcafe alter the structure?

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When cargo is lost or damaged under a carriage of goods by sea contract, the cargo-interest has a sustainable cause of action against the carrier for non-delivery under the Hague/Hague-Visby Rules. The carrier’s liability is fault based. The carrier may defend the action by proving it was caused by an excepted event under Art IV.2. However, the cargo-interest may respond by proving the cause of non-delivery was a breach of the carrier’s obligation to take care in providing a seaworthy ship. It is implied in fact that the cargo-interest must prove this because Art IV.1 expressly requires the carrier to disprove fault under Art III.1 where the cause of non-delivery was unseaworthiness. This article argues that The Volcafe alters this burden of proof structure. It is based on two irreconcilable premises of causation and implied terms in fact. Disproof of negligence is an exigency of causation, so it is not necessary to imply a term that requires the cargo-interest to prove the cause of non-delivery was unseaworthiness. Where the burden of proof rests under Art III.1 should be reconciled according to first principles in the law of bailments, which requires the carrier to disprove fault and, therefore, causation exclusively.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-427
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of International Maritime Law
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Maritime
  • Shipping
  • Burden of Proof
  • Bailment

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