Stop Press! Supreme Court hands down judgment in the CMA CGM LIBRA | Case by Case (Ep. 18)

Judgment in the CMA CGM Libra has been handed down yesterday by the Supreme Court. The result is that negligent passage planning can render a vessel “unseaworthy”, and liability for that unseaworthiness is not covered by the Article IV Rule 2 exception for errors in navigation.

The Court carried out a detailed and comprehensive review of a number of established precedents. In doing so, the Court also rejected Owners’ arguments that there was a need for an “Attribute Threshold” (where there must be an identifiable “attribute” that is defective to cause the unseaworthiness).

Finally, the Court agreed that the “prudent owner” test was not the sole test for unseaworthiness. While that test remains very important, the Court noted that the unseaworthiness must also go to the vessel’s ability safely to carry out the contracted voyage. That is in line with authorities including The Aquacharm, where an issue that a prudent owner would clearly seek to rectify was not sufficient to amount to unseaworthiness (in the case of The Aquacharm, overstowage preventing a vessel passing through the Panama Canal).

Luke and Calum discuss this significant Supreme Court judgment on a critical area of maritime law.