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27 November 2013
The Borgarting Court of Appeal recently considered the applicable time bar for claims for damages caused by delay of goods carried by sea. The question was whether claims for delay were subject to the same limitation period as claims for damage to or loss of the goods. The Norwegian courts had not previously been presented with this issue. Unsurprisingly, the appeal court held that claims for delay shall be treated in the same manner as other cargo claims, and consequently such claims are time barred one year after the cargo has been or should have been delivered.
The time bars of most maritime claims are governed by Section 501 of the Norwegian Maritime Code 1994. The time bar rules of the code originate from the Hague Visby Rules 1968, which were incorporated into Norwegian law in 1973.
According to Section 501(7) of the code, claims for damages in relation to loss and/or damage to or in connection with the goods become time barred one year after the goods were delivered or should have been delivered.
A general limitation period of three years is found in the Time-Bar Act 1979, which applies to all claims, whether in tort or contract, that are not governed by special legislation.
Although the wording of Section 501(7) does not explicitly state that it also applies to claims caused by delay, the preparatory works of a previous version of the code clearly show that the legislature intended the provisions to cover delay. This has also been the traditional view among legal scholars.
The question raised before the Borgarting Court of Appeal was whether the general time-bar rule of three years under the Time-Bar Act or the one-year limitation period under the Maritime Code should apply. The cargo interests argued that predictability should outweigh the intention of the legislature, and that the act rather than the code should apply to cargo claims for delay when the term 'delay was not explicitly mentioned in Section 501(7) of the code.
The appeal court agreed with the shipowners and found that the wording of the code was clear. The court stated that it would be inconsistent to apply a rule whereby different types of cargo claim were treated differently. Another important argument for the court was that this solution was in harmony with legislation in the other Nordic countries. As all Nordic countries have the same time-bar rules in their maritime legislation, maintaining a uniform interpretation of the law between the Nordic countries is important.
Although not regarded as uncertain among legal scholars in the past, it has now been made clear by the Borgarting Court of Appeal that all marine cargo claims are subject to a one-year limitation period. Carriage of goods by sea is in this respect treated the same way as carriage of goods by road and rail, as both the Act on Carriage of Goods by Road 1974 and the Norwegian Convention concerning International Carriage by Rail Act 1977 have a one-year limitation period.
For further information please contact Oddbjørn Slinning or Beate Fiskerstrand at Wikborg, Rein & Co by telephone (+47 22 82 75 00), fax (+47 22 82 75 01) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Wikborg, Rein & Co website can be accessed at www.wr.no.
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