Claim by ro/ro carrier against stevedore may proceed
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Baltimore ruled Monday that American Roll-on Roll-off Carrier, a subsidiary of Wallenius Lines, could pursue a claim it filed in 2003 against P&O Ports over an accident that occurred on a voyage in 2000.
The claim proceeds despite a one-year statute of limitations found in the Carriage of Goods at Sea Act (COGSA).
A 25-ton tractor that had been stowed on its ship broke loose in heavy seas and punctured a fuel tank, about a week after the ship had left Baltimore. About 10 to 15 tons of diesel fuel then leaked onto private vehicles stowed on decks below. All but 5 of 166 of the vehicles were damage, more than 100 of them severely.
The carrier settled with the government, which had arranged the transport of the vehicles, and then sought indemnification from the stevedore.
The stevedore contended that the claim against it was barred by the one-year statute of limitation in COGSA, which had been incorporated into the bills of lading for all the cargo. The claim was presented more than a year after the cargo had been loaded on the ship or the incident at sea.
The trial court granted P&O's motion for summary judgment. But Monday, the appellate court reversed, holding that the one-year time limit under COGSA did not apply because this was an action for indemnification by the carrier, not a claim by a cargo owner.
Instead a three-year statute of limitation for indemnification actions as provided in state law would apply.