Party who enters into a contract with a charterer or shipper, as the case may
be, for the carriage of cargo.
The carrier’s principal responsibilities, subject to the terms of the contract,
are for the delivery of the cargo to its destination and for the care of that cargo
while it is under his control. He is responsible to the charterer or shipper in the
first instance and possibly later on to other cargo interests, for example, when
the bill of lading, which is a document of title to the cargo and evidence of the
contract of carriage, is transferred to a third party.
Contracts of carriage arise in different circumstances, each of which
determines the identity of the carrier.
The most straightforward situations arise when the contract of carriage is
between the owner of a ship and the charterer, shipper or receiver, as the case
may be, covering the carriage of goods by sea: when a vessel is chartered by its
owner to a charterer to carry a cargo, the charter- party provides the contract
of carriage between the owner as carrier and the charterer; if it is intended that
the receiver be bound by the contract, the owner issues a charter- party bill of
lading and he is thereby responsible as carrier to the receiver from the time
when the bill of lading is transferred to the receiver.
Likewise, a shipping line, using one of its own vessels, when it contracts
with a shipper to carry a cargo, becomes carrier, the contract being most often
evidenced by a liner bill of lading. As with the charter- party bill of lading,
transfer of the liner bill of lading to a third party means that the shipping line’s
responsibility as carrier is to that third party.
The position is not so clear when the carrying ship is not owned by either
of the parties to the contract of carriage. A disponent owner, or head charterer,
is a person or company who does not own the ship but, having chartered
it, may control its commercial operation. Such a person or company
may sub- charter the vessel and enter into a contract of carriage with a subcharterer
by means of a charter- party. Alternatively, in the case of a shipping
line, the disponent owner may operate it as a liner ship, issuing a liner bill of
lading. Disponent owners sometimes endeavour to restrict their liability under
the charter- party or bill of lading by inserting a clause, known as a demise
clause or identity of carrier clause, which seeks to identify the actual
owner of the ship as the carrier. The purpose of such clauses is to refer cargo
interests, when they have a claim for damage or shortage, to the actual owner.
This is because it is the actual owner who may be controlling the navigation
of the ship and the care of the cargo, particularly when it is on board the ship.
There are, however, countries where such clauses are not upheld.
A combined transport operator or multimodal transport operator
enters into a contract with a shipper for the carriage of goods on a voyage
involving at least two legs. Normally the issuer of this document is responsible
for the goods as carrier from the time they are received into his care until the
time they are delivered at destination. A through bill of lading is similar but,
depending on the individual contract, the issuer may only be responsible as
carrier for the sea leg, acting purely as agent for the on- carriage.
A non vessel owning common carrier, also referred to as non vessel
operating carrier or non vessel owning carrier, is a person or company,
often a forwarding agent, who does not own or even operate the carrying
ship. He advertises his service based on one or more regular shipping lines
with whom he may have long- term contracts. By combining many small shipments,
he can cater for shippers who may be too small to deal directly or effectively
with the shipping lines. He contracts with these shippers for the carriage
of their cargo, normally not only for the sea leg but also to inland destinations.
He issues a house bill of lading to the shipper. Whether he is a carrier by law
depends on the particular terms and conditions under which he trades.
A pre- carrier carries cargo from the place of origin to the port of loading.
An on- carrier contracts to transport cargo from the port or place of discharge
of a sea- going or ocean- going ship to another, often inland, destination
by a different means of transport such as truck, train or barge.
A common carrier is anyone who advertises a service involving the carriage
of goods to and from ports on a particular route. Such a carrier is
required by law to accept all cargoes offered, except dangerous ones, and to
make a reasonable charge for their carriage.
The term carrier is also used to describe a specialist ship, such as a car
carrier, bulk carrier or combination carrier. This latter is designed to carry
either bulk cargoes or cargoes of oil.