Orduna, S.A. v Zen-Noh Grain Corp. case brief summary
US court of appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 1990
- In March 1984, a steel loading arm fell from a grain elevator on the Mississippi River onto the deck of the motor vessel Trebizond, which was loading cargo in the berth below.
- This damaged the ship and delayed its departure.
- Orduna, the shipowners, sued its voyage charterers, Euro, the owner and operator of the elevator, Zen-Noh, the design engineer of the structure (F&P) and the loading arm manufacturer.
The district court found Zen-Noh, F&P liable. Euro was also found liable, but was granted indemnification from Zen- Noh and F&P.
A charter’s party’s safe berth clause doesn’t make a charterer the warrantor of the safety of a berth. Instead the safe berth clause imposes upon the charterer a duty of due diligence to select a safe berth.
- The master on the scene, rather than a distant charterer, is in a better position to judge the safety of a particular berth. The master is an expert in navigation. The charterer is usually a merchant. The charterer customarily chooses ports and berths based on commercial as opposed to nautical grounds.
- The standard safe berth clause doesn’t compel the master to take a vessel into an unsafe berth.
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