Korean Cargo Claims under Korean Maritime Law

If you’ve ever wondered how to bring cargo claims under the Maritime Law/Shipping Law in Korea when South Korea is not a signatory to any international conventions governing the shipping of goods by sea, such as the Hague-Visby, Hamburg, or Rotterdam conventions, continue reading to find out. For information on arresting a ship in Korea please see: Arrest/Attachment of Ships at Korean Ports: Maritime Liens in Korea. And for an article on releasing an arrested ship please see: Releasing an Arrested Ship in Korea.

Maritime Law

It is true that South Korea is not a signatory to any major international conventions governing the shipping of goods by sea, such as the Hague-Visby, Hamburg, or Rotterdam conventions. However, the Hague-Visby Rules and the Hamburg Rules have, partially, been incorporated into the Korean Commercial Code (“KCC”). The KCC is the main statute that governs cargo claims. The presence and extent of a carrier’s liability on cargo claims under the KCC are almost identical to those under the Hague-Visby Rules, since the KCC is a near mirror of the Hague-Visby Rules.

Cargo Claims brought against a Ship in Korean waters

The ship is responsible for the damages to the cargo up until and unless it can demonstrate that it took every reasonable measure to ensure the cargo’s safety during shipping. Contractual cargo claims are successful, normally, if a plaintiff can establish:

  1. That it sustained damage or loss;
  2. The carrier failed to exercise “reasonable care,” and
  3. That the damage or loss took place under the custody of the ship.

Misdeclaration of Cargo in Korea

The transportation of hazardous items is the key concern here. The precise description of the products must be provided by the shipper to the carrier, and the information about the cargo must be included on the bill of lading. In particular, the shipper must provide the carrier with the precise identity of the cargo if it is deemed dangerous under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG) in order for the transport to be shipped safely.
If the carrier ship is able to demonstrate that it incurred any form of loss as a result of the cargo’s misdeclaration, it may file a tort claim for damages under Article 750 of the Korean Civil Law- KCL. Such as designating a dangerous cargo as a general cargo and asserting a connection between the damage and the cargo

Limitation Period for Making the Claim

A legal claim must typically be brought within a year of the carrier ship’s delivering the goods to the consignee. If both parties agree, this deadline may be extended. The KCC specifies that if no judicial claim is filed within the time frame following the delivery of the cargo, the carrier’s claims and obligations against the consignor or consignee, regardless of the basis for the claim, shall be cancelled.

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