The questions in the cases arise upon libels filed against the "Allanwilde" to recover prepaid freight for the transportation
The solution of the questions turns upon (1) the asserted prevention of the adventure by a storm at sea which the vessel encountered, requiring her return to port for repairs, and (2) afterwards by the restraining power of the Government.
On November 1, 1917, the "Allanwilde," owned by the Allanwilde Transport Corporation, was seized upon libels filed by the Vacuum Oil Company and A.W. Pidwell, respectively, each of which had shipped certain goods to be carried from New York to Rochefort, France.
In May, 1917, the Oil Company chartered the vessel to carry a cargo of oil in barrels at the rate of $16.50 a barrel (changed afterwards to $15.25).
The charter party contained, inter alia, the following provisions:
". . . freight to be prepaid net on signing bills of lading in United States gold or equivalent, free of discount, commission, or insurance. Freight earned, retained and irrevocable, vessel lost or not lost."
On August 25, the oil having been loaded, the vessel issued a bill of lading containing, inter alia, the following provision: "All conditions and exceptions of charter-party are to be considered as embodied in this bill of lading."
Pidwell was permitted to ship certain kegs of nails on the vessel, and on August 15 a bill of lading was issued to him. Inter alia, it provided that the carrier should not be liable for loss, damage, delay or default "by causes beyond the carrier's reasonable control; . . . by arrest or restraint of governments, princes, rulers, or peoples; . . . by prolongation of the voyage: . . ."
It is provided in paragraph 5 of the bill of lading that "full freight to destination, whether intended to be prepaid
In pursuance of the contracts thus attested the oil and the nails were shipped on the "Allanwilde" and the freight was paid in advance — $49,745.50 for the oil and $3,128.00 for the nails.
The vessel was seaworthy and properly manned and equipped, and set sail September 11. After she had been out about fourteen days and was about five hundred miles from New York, she encountered a storm so severe that her boats were carried away and she sprang a leak so threatening that the water in her hold was three or four feet deep and was gaining on the pumps. Thereupon the master properly decided that he must seek a port of refuge for safety and repair. Halifax was about five hundred miles away, but in that direction the wind was against him, while it was favorable for New York, and on this account as well as for other good reasons be headed for New York, where he arrived on October 5, having been out twenty-four days. Repairs were undertaken at once, the cargo remaining on board meanwhile.
"On September 28, while the vessel was at sea, the government decided to refuse clearance thereafter to any sailing vessel bound for the war zone. . . . The master did not know of this decision until the vessel returned to New York; he received no information from the shore after September 11. The repairs being finished, the vessel attempted to resume her voyage, but clearance
Upon these facts the Circuit Court of Appeals have certified four questions, two in each libel, as follows:
"1. Was the adventure frustrated, and was the contract evidenced by the charter-party and by the bill of lading issued to the Oil Co. dissolved, so as to relieve the carrier from further obligation to carry the oil?
"2. Whatever answer may be given to the first question, did the contract thus evidenced justify the carrier under the facts stated in refusing to refund the prepaid freight?
"3. Was the adventure frustrated, and was the contract evidenced by the bill of lading issued to Pidwell dissolved, so as to relieve the carrier from further obligation to carry the nails?
"4. Whatever answer may be given to the third question, did the contract thus evidenced justify the carrier under the facts stated in refusing to refund the prepaid freight?"
A copy of the charter party and copies of the bills of lading are attached to the certificate and also the official bulletin refusing clearance to "sailing vessels destined to proceed through the war zone."
The argument of counsel upon the elements of the questions
The physical events and what they determined are certified. First, there was the storm, compelling the return of the ship to New York to avert greater disaster; then the action of the Government precluding a second departure. Does the contract of the parties provide for such situation and take care of it, and assign its consequences? The charter party provides, as we have seen, that "freight to be prepaid net on signing bills of lading.. . . Freight earned, retained and irrevocable, vessel lost or not lost." And it is provided that this provision is, with other provisions, "to be embodied" in the bill of lading. They seem necessarily, therefore, deliberately adopted to be the measure of the rights and obligations of shipper and carrier. Let us repeat: the explicit declaration is — "Freight to be prepaid net on signing bills of lading. . . . Freight earned, retained and irrevocable, vessel lost or not lost." The provision was not idle or accidental. It is easy to make a charge of injustice against it if we consider only the defeat of the voyage and the non-carriage of the cargo. But there are opposing considerations. There were expected hazards and contingencies in the adventure and we must presume that the contract was framed in foresight of both and in provision for both. We cannot step in with another and different accommodation. It is urged, however, that there is no provision in the contract (charter party and bill of lading) of the Oil Company excepting "restraint of princes, rulers and peoples" and that, therefore, the carrier was
There is no imputation of bad faith. The carrier demonstrated an appreciation of its obligations and undertook their discharge. It was stopped, first by storm, and then prevented by the interdiction of the Government. In neither situation was it inactive. It quickly repaired the effects of the former and protested against the latter, joining with the shipper in an earnest effort for its relaxation. It gave up only when the impediment was found to be insurmountable.
The answer to the other contention is that the contract regarded the "Allanwilde," a sailing ship, not some other kind of ship or means. The Tornado, 108 U.S. 342; The Kronprinzessin Cecilie, supra.
The bill of lading in No. 450 is even more circumstantial. It provided that "Full freight to destination, whether intended to be prepaid or collect at destination, . . . shall be deemed fully earned and due and payable to the carrier at any stage before or after loading, of the service hereunder, without deduction (if unpaid) or refund in whole or in part (if paid), goods or vessel lost or not lost, or if the voyage be broken up." And there is exemption
The questions certified are therefore answered in the affirmative.