Ali Reza Delta v. UASC
The claimants were terminal operators in Damman, Saudi Arabia. A container belonging to the defendant shipowners exploded whilst on the terminal and destroyed a straddle carrier and terminal tug and trailer. Claimants claimed the replacement value, alternatively, the market value, of the equipment. The Court of Appeal held that, in the absence of evidence that the equipment had been, or was intended to be, replaced, market value, rather than replacement value, was the correct measure of damages. But, in calculating market value in Damman, where there was no local market for such equipment, account should be taken of the costs of transporting it there and adapting it to work in that environment. The amount of damages awarded at first instance was, accordingly, increased to take account of these factors.
The claimants (‘Ali Reza’) were, at the material time, the operators of the container terminal at the Saudi Arabia port of Damman. The defendant shipowners (‘UASC’) operated a container liner service, which called at Damman as part of its schedule. On 20 August 1966, a container of gas lighters being carried to Riyadh under a UASC combined transport bill of lading, exploded in the container terminal, destroying a straddle carrier and a dock ‘tug’ and trailer, upon which it was being loaded. At first instance, UASC had been held responsible for the loss under the terms of the port rules, which imposed strict liability under Saudi law upon users of the terminal for all damage arising out of their use of its facilities. Ali Reza had claimed US$200,000 for the loss of the straddle carrier and US$26,600 for the loss of the tug, these sums being in each case the insured values. The value of the trailer had been agreed at US$800. The total claim was, therefore, US$227,400.
Ali Reza contended that these amounts were recoverable either as the cost of replacing the damaged equipment or as its market value at the time of its loss. UASC contended that it was not reasonable for the claimants’ loss to be measured on the basis of replacement cost, in the absence of evidence that the claimants had actually replaced the equipment or had any intention of doing so, and relied on the authority of ‘The Maersk Colombo’  2 Lloyd’s Rep 275. UASC agreed that they should pay the market value, but placed this at US$100,000 for the straddle carrier and US$15,000 for the tug.
At first instance, the judge, Brian Knight QC, had held that, in the absence of evidence that the claimants had replaced or would replace the equipment, damages should be limited to its market value, which he determined to be US$115.800, as calculated by UASC.
The claimants appealed. They maintained that they were entitled to recover the replacement cost of the equipment but, if market value was to be the measure of their loss, then they were entitled to the value of the equipment in Saudi Arabia, namely US$227,400. The sums that the judge had awarded were based on what it would cost to buy the equipment second-hand in Europe. There was no market for the equipment in Saudi Arabia. Therefore the market value of the equipment in Saudi Arabia equated to the replacement cost, because it had to take account of the cost of transporting the equipment there from Europe and adapting it to operate in the high temperatures prevailing in the region.
Argument before the court of appeal was limited to the issue of market value.
He quoted with approval the following propositions approved by the Court of Appeal in the case of The Maersk Colombo, namely:
The question was, therefore, how to assess the market or re-sale value of the equipment at the time and place (Saudi Arabia) where it was destroyed. In answering this, the judge relied on the evidence from the claimants’ expert, Mr. John Gibbons, to the effect that the amounts claimed for the straddle carrier and the tug of US$200,000 and US$26,600 respectively were "fair and reasonable". In reaching this conclusion, the expert had said that it would cost US$100,000 to buy a second-hand machine in Europe. This machine would then have to be dismantled, shipped and reassembled, which would double the cost. Further unspecified costs would then have to be incurred to adapt the machine for use in high temperatures, which could not be done cheaply. Insurance and freight would add to the cost. "What Mr. Gibbons is saying", said the judge, "is that it would cost substantially more than US$200,000 to replace the carrier."
The judge interpreted this to mean that the market or re-sale value of the machine in Saudi Arabia was US$200,000. The same applied to the figure of US$26,600 that Mr. Gibbons had placed on the value of the tug. "The market value of working equipment such as this," said the judge, "must reflect the increased costs of getting it to Saudi Arabia and adapting it for use there, however old it may be."
On this basis, the figure of US$115,800 (for the combined costs of straddle carrier, tug and trailer) awarded by the trial judge could not be correct since that figure had been based upon the value of the equipment in Europe. The judgment at first instance was therefore overruled and the claimants were accordingly awarded their full claim of US$227,400.
These Case Notes have been prepared with care, but neither the Editor nor the International and other Contributors can guarantee that they are free from error, nor that they contain every pertinent point. Reliance should not therefore be placed upon them without independent verification. The Editor and the International and other Contributors disclaim all liability for any loss of whatsoever nature and howsoever arising as a result of others acting or refraining from acting in reliance on the contents of this website and the information to which it gives access. The Editor claims copyright in the content of the website.