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ACCIAI SPECIALI TERNI USA, INC. v. M/V BERANE

February 5, 2002

ACCIAI SPECIALI TERNI USA, INC., PLAINTIFF,
V.
M/V BERANE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Frederic N. Smalkin, Chief United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on a motion for partial summary judgment, filed by the plaintiff Acciai Speciali Terni USA, Inc. ("AST"), which seeks a declaration that the Hague-Visby Rules of Italy, rather than the U.S. Carriage of Goods by Sea Act ("COGSA"), 46 U.S.C. App. §§ 1300-1315, set the limit to the potential liability of defendants Oktoih Overseas Shipping Ltd. ("Oktoih") and Trans Sea Transport N.V. ("Trans Sea"). AST is seeking relief for cargo damage allegedly caused by Oktoih, the carrier, and Trans Sea, the charterer of the carrying vessel, through negligence and breach of contract. The issues have been well briefed by AST and Trans Sea, and no oral hearing is necessary.*fn1 Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md.).

BACKGROUND

The general facts of this case are not in dispute. Acciai Speciali Terni, S.p.A., engaged the carrier Oktoih to make a shipment of steel sheets and coils from the port of Civitavecchia, Italy, to Baltimore, Maryland, on board the M/V Berane. Oktoih in turn entered into a charter party with Trans Sea, which agreed to perform the actual carriage. The vessel departed Civitavecchia on April 18, 2000, and arrived in Baltimore on May 10, 2000. Trans Sea carried the steel under a bill of lading, whose contractual provisions govern the rights and obligations both of Trans Sea and of AST. See Wemhoener Pressen v. Ceres Marine Terminals, Inc., 5 F.3d 734, 738 (4th Cir. 1993). AST alleges that Trans Sea received the steel cargo in good condition but delivered it damaged at the port of destination.*fn2 This admiralty action followed.

Clause 2 of the bill of lading, the General Paramount Clause, provides:

The Hague Rules contained in the International Convention for the Unification of certain rules relating to Bills of Lading . . . as enacted in the country of shipment shall apply to this contract. When no such enactment is in force in the country of shipment, the corresponding legislation of the country of destination shall apply, but in respect of shipments to which no such enactments are compulsorily applicable, the terms of the said Convention shall apply.

Trades where Hague-Visby Rules apply.

In trades where . . . the Hague-Visby Rules [] apply compulsorily, the provisions of the respective legislation shall be considered incorporated in this Bill of Lading. The Carrier takes all reservations possible under such applicable legislation, relating to the period before loading and after discharging and while the goods are in charge of another Carrier, and to deck cargo . . . .

The bill of lading also contains Additional Clause B, entitled "U.S. Trade [and] Period of Responsibility," which states:

In case the Contract evidenced by this Bill of Lading is subject to the U.S. Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, then the provisions stated in said Act shall govern before loading and after discharge and throughout ...

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