Cargo Foils COGSA Fire Defense
Successfully represented an international carbon black feedstock oil trading company and its cargo insurer in a maritime case. A vessel was chartered to our client for the carriage of carbon black feedstock oil from three ports in the United States to three ports in the Far East. During the voyage an explosion aboard the vessel caused a small fire and took the lives of three crew members. The vessel owner's defense was based upon the Fire Statute and the fire exception under the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA), which shifted the burden to our clients to prove that the explosion and fire was caused by the fault and neglect of the vessel's management. If that could not be proven, the vessel owners would be exonerated from any damage suffered by cargo interests. Fault and neglect on the part of the ship's captain and crew members is insufficient to overcome the statutory protection of the Fire Statute and Fire Exception under COGSA. Fault and neglect must be found to have existed on the part of the vessel's shore-side managers.
In arbitration, the Panel majority ruled in our favor and concluded that the vessel management's design or neglect was the proximate cause of the explosion and fire and, therefore, the vessel owner was found liable for the claimed cargo losses.