Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly


The Tasman Pioneer

The Tasman Pioneer was carrying cargo to Busan from Auckland via Yokohama. The master, who was under pressure to make up time to arrive at the Kanmon Straits, decided not to follow the normal route around the western coast of Shikoku. Instead he took a shortcut through a narrow passage and grounded the vessel on the island of Biro Shima, causing the vessel to list and to take on water, which had to be pumped. Rather than alerting the Japanese coastguard or the owners, he continued to steam at full speed in gale-force winds for two and a half hours, with the vessel on an increasing list, before finally anchoring near the intersection of his normal route and advising the owners of the incident. He instructed the crew to lie about the vessel’s course and how the incident occurred, and ordered the second mate to falsify the ship’s charts. The ship was subsequently salved, but the plaintiffs’ deck cargo had already been damaged.1
The main issue facing the New Zealand High Court and Court of Appeal was whether the master’s conduct came within the “nautical fault” exemption in art IV.2(a) of the Hague-Visby Rules, which provides that neither the carrier nor the ship is responsible for loss or damage arising or resulting from the “[a]ct, neglect or default of the master,



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