Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1971

The Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1971 is a legislative framework in the United Kingdom that incorporates the Hague-Visby Rules, referred to in the Act as the Hague Rules As Amended. These rules, found in the Schedule to the Act, establish regulations governing the carriage of goods by sea and are applicable under specific circumstances outlined in Article X of the Act.

According to Article X, the Hague-Visby Rules apply if:
(a) the bill of lading is issued in a contracting State,
(b) the carriage is from a port in a contracting State, or
(c) the contract of carriage explicitly stipulates that the Rules are to govern the contract.

When the Rules are applicable, they become part of the contract of carriage as a statutory contract. Attempting to exclude the Rules is considered void under Article III (8).

Section 3 of the Act clarifies that there is no strict duty to provide a seaworthy ship. Instead, the carrier is required to exercise due diligence before and at the start of the voyage to ensure a seaworthy ship.

While the Hague-Visby Rules were amended in 1979 by a protocol, not all signatories to the Rules have adopted these amendments. The Act incorporates the Rules regardless of these amendments.

Additional provisions in the UK include Section 1(7) of the Act, allowing parties to opt into the Rules even when dealing with deck cargo or live animals, which are exempted under Article I(c) of the Rules. In such cases, Article I(c) is read as if it did not exist.

Moreover, Section 4 of the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1992 modifies Article III(4) of the Rules, elevating a bill of lading from "mere prima facie evidence of the receipt by the carrier of the goods" to "conclusive evidence of receipt." This modification overturns the decision in Grant v Norway 1851.

It is noteworthy that the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999 does not apply to contracts for the carriage of goods by sea, emphasising the specialised nature of this legal framework.
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