ALIZE 1954 AND ANOTHER v ALLIANZ ELEMENTAR VERSICHERUNGS AG AND OTHERS (THE “CMA CGM LIBRA”)  EWHC 481 (Admlty)
On 18 May 2011, whilst leaving the port of Xiamen in China, the container vessel, CMA CGM Libra, grounded.
The owners sued the cargo interests for a contribution in general average. The owners claimed that the cause of the casualty was “an uncharted shoal outside the fairway on which the vessel grounded.”
The cargo interests refused to contribute in general average on the basis that the cause of the casualty was the vessel’s unseaworthiness due to her passage plan being defective. The cargo interests further alleged that the casualty was caused by “owners’ actionable fault”, thus also a breach of article III, rule 1 of the Hague Rules.
The Court held that the owners’ claim failed. The cargo interests had established causative unseaworthiness and were therefore not liable to contribute in general average. Further, the court found that:
This case is a noteworthy reminder from the courts that a vessel’s passage planning is an aspect of seaworthiness. It highlights the need for shipowners to ensure that careful, accurate passage planning is carried out, including updating charts to be used during the voyage and consulting relevant notices to mariners, particularly when an intended voyage includes navigating in confined and difficult waters.
This case also serves as a reminder that owners’ duty to exercise due diligence to make the vessel seaworthy in accordance with article III, rule 1 of the Hague Rules, is non-delegable.