Legal Challenges and Responses
Edited by Douglas Guilfoyle
Chapter 13: Piracy and carriage of goods by sea
This chapter concerns the carriage of goods by sea. This is the branch of commercial law which concerns charterparties and bills of lading, these being the primary contractual documents that govern the rights and obligations of shipowners, charterers and the owners of cargo carried by sea. In particular the chapter aims to analyse the concept of piracy as a contractual risk and the way in which such risk is defined and allocated between the parties to the contract of carriage. The consequence of a party accepting or seeking to exclude the contractual risk of piracy forms the underlying basis of that risk being insured as discussed in Chapter 12. It has become a matter of notoriety that shipowners and those engaged in international trade over the last five years have faced largely unprecedented problems consequent upon the hijacking of cargo vessels and the kidnap and ransom of their crews off the coasts of Somalia and out in the Indian Ocean. These events have been contrasted with earlier threats to maritime trade and security, in particular attacks carried out in the Malacca Straits and South China Sea more than a decade before, where the motive of the attackers was not a ransom payment but the theft of both vessels and cargo for illicit trade often by the creation of ‘phantom ships’ with murderous intentions towards the unfortunate crews. Robbery and theft of vessels’ equipment have also been a major feature of attacks on merchant vessels, notably off West Africa
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