عنوان مقاله [English]
The transportation of goods by sea plays a crucial role in global commerce, accounting for over ninety-three percent of goods transported worldwide. This preference for sea transport is primarily due to its ability to move large volumes of goods at lower costs compared to other transportation methods.
Safety is paramount in ensuring the successful operation of maritime carriage. Ships must be equipped with the necessary technical instruments to guarantee safety. Maritime law establishes regulations for this purpose, commonly referred to as "seaworthiness." In essence, a ship must possess the required capabilities in all aspects to fulfill its designated mission, transport goods within the agreed timeframe, and deliver them safely to their final destination. The absence of seaworthiness poses risks to the ship itself, its cargo, its crew, and other individuals on board. Such events can have varying consequences, ranging from the most severe, such as ship sinking and total destruction of cargo, to the mildest, such as delivery delays resulting in economic losses due to market conditions. The comprehensive characteristics and essential conditions of a ship for the proper execution of a carriage contract are encompassed by the term "seaworthiness."
The carriage of goods by sea and the operation of commercial ships are governed by two types of contracts: contracts of carriage and charterparties. International conventions, contractual agreements, and established customs in the field of carriage impose an obligation on ship owners and carriers to ensure the seaworthiness of their vessels. This research aims to address fundamental questions related to seaworthiness, including the criteria for evaluating it and how to determine if a ship owner or carrier has fulfilled their seaworthiness obligation. It also explores the legal nature of the seaworthiness commitment and the similarities and differences between this commitment in contracts of carriage and charterparties. Additionally, the study examines the proof of breach of this obligation and the resulting effects on the rights and obligations of the parties involved.
This research adopts a library-based methodology, drawing insights from legal literature. The authors conclude that seaworthiness is a multidimensional and relative concept. It encompasses not only the ship's engines, hull, and technical aspects but also the competence and skills of the ship's personnel (captain, engineer, and crew) and the necessary certifications. The type of cargo and its stowage on board the ship can also impact the seaworthiness of the vessel. Seaworthiness can only be determined through a case-by-case assessment, considering various factors such as the type of contract, vessel, cargo, timing (season), and the location of contract execution (sea, ocean, lake, etc.).
This article examines the legal nature and basis of the seaworthiness commitment in international conventions and different legal systems. It establishes that the commitment to seaworthiness is an implied and legal obligation imposed on carriers and ship owners, even in cases where the contract remains silent on the matter. Moreover, the carrier's responsibility for ensuring seaworthiness does not adhere to the general principles of liability. Under Article 386 of the Iranian Trade Law, the carrier's liability is based on the "assumption of responsibility." In other words, the carrier can only be exempted from liability if they can demonstrate that external factors caused the damage. However, this general principle is modified when it comes to the lack of seaworthiness. According to paragraph 1 of Article 55 of the Iranian Maritime Law (adapted from paragraph 1 of Article 4 of the Hague Rules-1924), the carrier's liability resulting from a breach of the seaworthiness commitment is based on the "presumption of fault." In practical terms, the carrier can be relieved of liability by proving that they exercised due diligence in ensuring the ship's seaworthiness. This distinction has significant implications in legal disputes involving cargo owners and carriers, as well as ship owners and charterers