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Container ship meeting with heavy weather - Seaworthiness at sea

container ship in heavy weather conditions


The risks associated with containerized cargo are of course generally brought into sharp focus if the carrying vessel encounters Heavy weather conditions or if the vessel routing heightens the impact of the weather upon the ship and cargo.

Stoppage of the main engine in heavy weather conditions could result in violent rolling, pitching and heaving motion of the vessel, highly stressing cargo securing equipment on deck.

This may result in failure of cargo securing equipment and consequent loss of deck cargo containers overboard.

Safety permitting, this shall be done more frequently if vessel is encountering heavy weather or lashings are found loosening frequently due to effect of ships motion.

In heavy weather conditions where it is unsafe for ships crew to venture out on deck for purposes of checking deck cargo securing, master shall consider his ship handling options and heave to if required for carrying out same and ensuring safety of the vessel and its cargo.


Seaworthiness at sea

The obligation on the owner to provide a seaworthy vessel (i.e. a vessel that is technically seaworthy, cargo-worthy and fit for the intended voyage) before the voyage commences is absolute . The common law recognises, however, that the merchant ship which is absolutely watertight in all weather conditions has not yet been built, since even the most well-found vessel will contort in a seaway, allowing water to penetrate the hatchcover seals, etc. Owners therefore cannot guarantee the seaworthiness of their vessels after leaving port, when they become subject to various perils of the sea.



The requirements of the common law, as modified by Article III(1) of the Hague and Hague-Visby Rules , will be met if, at the time the vessel left her berth, she was in a seaworthy condition as far as could be ascertained by the exercise of due diligence (i.e. the reasonably careful inspection) by the owner, master and officers to see that she was ready for sea.

The Hamburg Rules do not expressly mention seaworthiness or an obligation to exercise due diligence. However, the carrier’s obligation under Article 5(1) to prove that he, his servants and his agents took all measures which could reasonably be required to avoid the occurrence and its consequences, would appear to impose an obligation to exercise due diligence at all times and all stages of the voyage.

A merchant ship would probably be deemed unseaworthy in law if she proceeded on a voyage without: Provided the vessel departs on her voyage in a seaworthy condition , she will normally remain covered by her insurers throughout the voyage to the next port, even when, technically, her seaworthiness may have been compromised by some accident, e.g. heavy weather damage or seawater shipped in heavy seas. The vessel would not be covered on her next voyage (or leg of the voyage), however, if she left the next port of call without her seaworthiness being restored.


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