The Ship ‘Marlborough Hill’ v Alex Cowan and Sons Limited: PC 1921

References: [1921] AC 444
Coram: Lord Phillimore
The question was whether a document, describing itself as a bill of lading but written in the form of a receipt of goods for (rather than of) shipment, was a bill of lading for the purposes of the Act, which set out the jurisdiction of the admiralty court for an action in rem. The claim had been brought by consignees which provided for delivery to the shipper’s order.
Held: It was a bill of lading within the Act. The court noted that it purported to be negotiable. If this document is a bill of lading, it is a negotiable instrument. Other incidents of the document were standard for a bill of lading, such as detailed terms and conditions in familiar form; the fact that the document was called a bill of lading many times in the course of such provisions and that it was made subject to the US Charter Act; the fact that it provides that ‘If required by the shipowner, one signed bill of lading, duly endorsed, must be surrendered on delivery of the goods’; and that it ‘ends in the time honoured form’, viz ‘In witness whereof the master or agent of said vessel has signed three bills of lading, all of this tenor and date, of which if one is accomplished, the others shall be void’ The court emphasised that the document would work as merchants would expect a bill of lading to work. It accorded wit hstandard commercial practiceand the parties agreed to call it a bill of lading, and entered into obligations and acquired rights proper to a bill of lading. All the other incidents in its very detailed language are such as are proper to such a document.
Statutes: Admiralty Court Act 1861
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Last Update: 31-Jan-16 Ref: 181886