Admiralty Jurisdiction and Practice

Page 189


Limitation of actions


5.1 Certain claims falling within the scope of the subject-matter jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court have limitation periods which differ from the ordinary six-year period applicable to claims in contract1 and tort,2 and the three-year period applicable to claims for personal injury3 and death4 as provided by the Limitation Act 1980.5 More importantly, these different limitation periods are shorter than, and override, the periods that would ordinarily be applicable. In this chapter will be considered the particular limitation provisions, in order of their length, the equitable doctrine of laches as it applies in Admiralty proceedings, and the Foreign Limitation Periods Act 1984.

One-year time bar

Cargo claims against carrying ship6

5.2 Although it is possible that a cargo claim against the ship in which the goods were carried may be subject to some shorter contractual period of limitation, the majority of cargo claims will be brought under bills of lading to which a one-year time bar is applicable as a result of the incorporation of the Hague Rules or the Hague-Visby Rules. However, where the claim is being handled by parties to the Gold Clause Agreement,7 the cargo interests will be entitled to a further extension of one year, and where the Hamburg Rules are incorporated the limitation period will be two years as considered below.8

Application of the Hague and Hague-Visby Rules

5.3 The Hague-Visby Rules were given the force of law in England by the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1971. However, where the Hague-Visby Rules would not be compulsorily applicable, and the proper law of the contract is not English law, the Hague Rules may apply. For the purposes of limitation of actions this is of no real consequence as the terms of the applicable time bar are to all intents and purposes the same.

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5.4 Article X of the Hague Rules provides:

“The provisions of this Convention shall apply to all bills of lading issued in any of the Contracting States.”

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