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For almost 600 years,1 shipowners have warranted absolutely that their vessels are seaworthy.2 This was later formulated in the Hague and Hague-Visby Rules as an obligation to exercise “due diligence” to provide a seaworthy vessel.3 Although the appeal in The CMA CGM Libra4 was considered “straightforward”,5 the decision was keenly awaited. The maritime community did not have long to wait: a very strong Court of Appeal handed down judgment6 a fortnight after the conclusion of the hearing.7
Fundamental to the case was the well-known test laid down by Channell J in McFadden v Blue Star Line8 that:
“If the defect existed [at the commencement of her voyage], the question to be put is: Would a prudent owner have required that it should be made good before sending his ship to sea had he known of it? If he would, the ship was not seaworthy within the meaning of the undertaking.”
The issue in the appeal, as in the Admiralty Court,9 was whether defects in a vessel’s passage plan and working charts rendered the CMA CGM Libra unseaworthy because they