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Ss Ardennes (cargo Owner) V Ss Ardennes

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B/L as evidence of the contract

  • Generally, the contract is concluded orally long before the bill is issued
  • Although the reverse side of every standard liner B/L is to be found a detailed set of printed contractual terms.
  • The shippers are concerned, these terms do not constitute the contract of carriage itself, but merely provide evidence of it.
  • If the printed terms of the B/L is subsequently issued do not comply with those of the earlier oral agreement, the shipper is not debarred from submitting oral evidence to establish the precise terms of that agreement.
  • As expressed by Lush in 1879 “A B/L is not the contract but only the evidence of the contact.

SS Ardennes (Cargo Owner) v SS Ardennes (Owner) (1951):

  • The plaintiffs shipped 3,000 cases of mandarin oranges at Cartagena for carriage to London.
  • They received an oral undertaking from shipowners’ agent that the vessel would proceed directly to London.
  • The B/L contained liberty to call at other ports and the ship sailed to Antwerp firstly.
  • This caused the plaintiffs had to pay a higher rate of import duty and the market price for the oranges fell.
  • Court held that a B/L is not in itself the contract between the shipowner and the shipper, it is only a best evidence of a contract.
  • Shippers are entitled to damages for the extra duty paid and the fall in the market price.
  • The sharp price reduction was caused by the arrival of three other fruit ships from Valencia.
  • Thus the plaintiff cannot actually claim the amount they contended.

Crooks & Co. v Allan (1879)

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