Strict liability of the shipowner




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Several experts recently met again at the 62nd Traffic Court Conference in Goslar last week. One of the topics discussed in a working group was the strict liability of a shipowner for third-party damage. But first, let's return to strict liability in road traffic. The German Road Traffic Act sets out various regulations for road users. In particular, ยง 7 German Road Traffic Act(StVG) refers to strict liability.  "If, during the operation of a motor vehicle, a person suffers death, the body or health of a person is injured or an item of property is damaged, the vehicle holder is liable to make compensation to the injured person for the resulting damage."

The regulation is solely linked to the fact that a source of danger is created by the vehicle being operated. Exceptions only apply if a risk is realized due to force majeure or unavoidable events. This applies to road, air and rail transportation as a whole.

In shipping, however, the basic rule is fault-based liability. This is different from the aforementioned areas. Strict liability could perhaps be introduced at national level in the context of shipping, provided it does not involve collisions between ships. The working group justified this with the increasing size of ships, automation and alternative propulsion systems and thus makes a recommendation to the German government to introduce strict liability for shipping.




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