Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


This thesis traces the development of laws governing limitation of shipowner liability to cargo owners from the Harter Act to the Hague Rules and the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA). The inadequacy of the $500 per package limitation of liability as protection to shippers is illustrated through the use of case studies by comparing the application of this provision to break-bulk shipments when COGSA was first passed to its application today in the age of containerization. The efforts of the major maritime nations to revise the Hague Rules/COGSA system in the Visby Amendments are examined and compared to the new regime proposed by cargo interests from developing nations in the United Nations Convention of the Carriage of Goods by Sea. Although the Visby Amendments provide some benefits to shippers over the Hague Rules, uncertainties surrounding the interpretation of clauses pertaining to containerized cargo have prevented the United States from adopting them. While the Hamburg rules offer shippers better protection, they have not been accepted by any major maritime nations primarily because of opposition from carriers. Finally, the new bill on shipowner liability being considered by Congress is examined and an alternative approach to determining shipowner liability is proposed.