The opinion of the court was delivered by: Haight, Senior District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
For decades American admiralty courts have struggled to define
the deceptively simple noun "package" within the context of §
4(5) of the Carriage of Goods by Sea act, 46 U.S.C. App. §
1304(5) ("COGSA" or the "Act"), which limits an ocean carrier's
liability for cargo damage or loss to "$500 per package . . .,
or in case of goods not shipped in packages, per customary
freight unit," unless the cargo skipper declares a higher value
and pays a higher freight. "Freight" in this context refers not
to the cargo, but the amount the carrier charges for the cargo's
This case, before the Court on stipulated facts and
cross-motions for partial summary judgment, shows that the
struggle to define "packages" continues.
The following account is derived from the Stipulation of Facts
("SF") entered into by the parties.
At the pertinent times plaintiff Orient Overseas Container
Lines (UK) Ltd., ("OOCL") and defendant Sea-Land Service, Inc.
("Sea-Land") were parties to a Space Charter and Sailing
Agreement (the "Agreement"). OOCL and Sea-Land were both ocean
common carriers. The Agreement enabled OOCL to provide its
services upon vessels owned or operated by Sea-Land, for
carriage of cargoes between certain United States and North
European ports. One of the vessels Sea-Land owned or operated
was the M/V SEALAND QUALITY.
As its corporate name indicates, OOCL conducted its business
by arranging for the ocean carriage of goods stowed in
containers. "Containers are very large, oblong metal boxes,
resembling trucks without wheels or cabs." Allied International
American Eagle Trading Corp. v. S.S. Yang Ming, 672 F.2d 1055,
1058 (2d Cir. 1982).
In January 1994, pursuant to the Agreement, OOCL chartered
space aboard the M/V SEALAND QUALITY for the carriage of 1,768
Ford automobile engines from Rotterdam to the port of New York.
The engines were not covered by any wrapping and were not boxed
or crated. They were stowed on racks designed to accommodate 8
engines each. The racks were then stowed in 17 containers, 13
racks in each container. Thus each container contained 104
engines (8 engines times 13 racks), thereby accommodating the
shipment of 1,768 engines (104 engines times 17 containers).
The racks were the property of the shipper of the engines,
Ford Werke A.G., which placed the engines on the racks. The
racks were not integral parts of the OOCL containers in which
the engines were stowed.
The entire shipment of 1,768 engines was covered by a single
ocean bill of lading, number 00LW37502149, which OOCL issued
with Sea-Land's consent to the shipper of the engines, Ford
Werke A.G. OOCL and Sea-Land were both ocean carriers, and thus
became jointly and severally responsible for performance of the
contract of carriage created by the bill of lading.
As is customary in the trade, the bill of lading was comprised
of a printed form with spaces in which the details of the
shipment were typed. A printed clause incorporated by reference
the limitations upon the carrier's liability found in § 4(5) of
COGSA. Since the carriage was to a United States port, COGSA
would in any event have applied ex proprio vigore. Another
printed clause in the bill of lading extended its COGSA-derived
defenses and limitations to the carriers' subcontractors,
including stevedores and cargo handlers at the discharge port.
The face of the bill of lading contained a printed caption
reading "PARTICULARS FURNISHED BY SHIPPER." Five columns were
collected under that caption, each with a printed sub-caption,
reading from left to right as follows:
"CNTR. NOS. W/SEAL NOS. MARKS AND NUMBERS"
"DESCRIPTION OF PACKAGES AND GOODS"
Typed details were filled in under each of these five printed
sub-captions, as follows:
Under the printed sub-caption "CNTR.NOS W/SEAL NOS. MARKS AND
NUMBERS" appears the typed notation "N/M." Presumably this is an
abbreviation for "No Marks."
Under the printed sub-caption "QUANTITY PACKAGES" appears the
typed notation "1768 PCS." Presumably "PCS" is an abbreviation
Under the printed sub-caption "DESCRIPTION OF PACKAGES AND
GOODS" appear the following typed notations: