Stevedore damage clause. In a voyage charter the stevedores may be appointed and paid by tile charterer.
The responsibility and liability for any damage to the ship will fall upon the Charterer. However, this responsibility and any liability arises only after the master follows a procedure described in the “Stevedore damage clause”. The effect of such a clause can vary from making the Charterer liable in any case to excluding any liability if a very strict (and perhaps impossible) procedure is not followed. The effect can also state the amount of liability and this can vary considerably, depending on the bargaining strength of the Charterer during the negotiations for the fixture. An example of a Stevedore damage clause is found in the MULTIFORM voyage charterparty:
“Stevedore damage to the vessel shall be for Charterers’ account subject to the following conditions: At the time of the occurrence the Master is to notify the Charterers by telecommunication the details of the stevedore damage in the case of damage discoverable by the exercise of due diligence and otherwise on discovery thereof, but in no case later than completion of discharge of the cargo, failing which any claim shall be deemed to be waived.
Furthermore, immediately visible damage occurs the Master shall place the stevedores on notice in writing holding them responsible, and endeavour to obtain their acknowledgement of liability therefore.
Stevedore damage affecting the seaworthiness of the vessel shall be repaired by the Charterers at their expense in the port where the damage occurs . . . Damage not affecting the vessel’s seaworthiness shall be for Charterers’ account when actually repaired, but no compensation is to be paid for any time so used.”
The clause is meant to protect the Charterer to some extent by preventing liability for damage not evidently done by the stevedores during the particular voyage charter. Such a clause will prevent an owner from making a claim against the Charterer for damage done at a time previous to the time during which the ship was under charter.
While the clause requires the master to endeavour to obtain the stevedores’ acknowledgement of liability for the damage, in practice this seldom happens. If the clause does not specify that the master must “endeavour” (or “attempt”) to obtain the stevedores’ acknowledgement of liability for vessel damage, then the charterer’s liability comes into operation only if the stevedores actually admit responsibility for the damage.
In a time charter, for example, under the New York Produce Exchange form, the “Employment clause” requires the master to “supervise” the cargo handling but this is for the purposes of safety. Therefore, if stevedores damage the vessel during the cargo handling operations, failure to supervise adequately may reduce or even exclude a charterer’s liability for damage.
In a case concerning a time charter, The Argonaut, 1985, the ship’s tanktops (bottoms of the cargo holds) were damaged by the stevedores’ unsafe working practices at two discharge ports. The Employment clause in the charterparty had been amended to include the words “and responsibility” after the word “supervision” (“. . . Charterers are to load, stow and trim the cargo at their expense under the supervision of the Captain …”). It was held by the court that the addition of the words transferred liability from the Charterer to the owner for all operations in the Employment clause, if there was no intervention by the charterer. This covered responsibility for damage to the ship caused by bad working practices of the stevedores.
A Stevedore damage clause can be added to a New York Produce Exchange form as a “Rider clause”. This is done in ASBATIME, and is very similar to that in MULTIFORM.