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The judgment written by Qingdao Maritime Court won the first prize of “Excellent Judgment Document Selection” of the provincial courts in 2021.

This case is a complex dispute involving soybean cargo damage under foreign maritime cargo transportation contracts involving multiple countries such as China, Panama, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Brazil, etc. The trial of this case has two guiding significance. On the one hand, it is the innovation of trial methods. For the first time, the Qingdao Maritime Court allowed Professor a British expert appraiser, to testify in court by means of remote video, to accept the inquiries of both parties. The whole trial spanned half the world, and the whole process was broadcast online. Good trial results were achieved, which laid the foundation for case fact identification and also reflected the international, professional and intelligent level of China’s maritime justice. On the other hand, the arbitration rules established in this case have broad guiding significance for soybean cargo damage cases. There are many cases of soybean heat damage, which are generally analyzed from three aspects: whether the quality of the goods is suitable for maritime transportation requirements, whether the ventilation measures during the responsibility period are appropriate, and the impact of delayed unloading on the occurrence of cargo damage. In this case, a thorough and detailed analysis and identification of these three factors have been conducted.
Regarding the national standard for soybeans with a moisture content higher than 13%, the court believes that this standard is clearly applicable to commodity soybeans purchased, stored, transported, processed, and sold. The 13% moisture content standard should be considered to meet the general requirements of soybean storage, transportation, commercial circulation, and other links, rather than limited to the storage link. This case is a maritime cargo transportation link and should also comply with national standards. This case involves imported soybeans and ocean transportation. Different countries have different regulations on the moisture content of soybeans, and there is no unified international standard for ocean transportation of soybeans. Although the moisture content of soybeans in this case is higher than 13%, they are not goods that cannot be transported by sea and are inevitably damaged. Regarding the relationship between the quality defects of mixed weeds in soybeans and the issuance of a clean bill of lading by the captain, the court believes that the issue of a clean bill of lading by the carrier should be based on the usual observation methods and knowledge, using the naked eye or other common and reasonable inspection methods, and only the surface condition of the goods that can be observed and discovered from the appearance, excluding the inherent quality of the goods. Moreover, when the carrier issued the bill of lading in this case, they did not see the quality certificate of the involved soybean, so they should not impose additional high requirements on the carrier to issue the bill of lading. Therefore, although a clean bill of lading was issued for the involved soybean, it does not mean that the soybean does not have any quality defects.
Soybeans are currently the main force of bulk grain cargo transported by sea. Once cargo damage claims occur, the amount is often huge, and it involves a series of legal entities under charter parties such as shipowners, bareboat charterers, long-term charterers, short-term charterers, and distance charterers. Therefore, the effectiveness of the judgment made in this case not only applies to both parties involved, but also serves as the basis for the bareboat charterer to claim compensation from their next lessee.



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