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The Indian Grace No. 2 Notes

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THE INDIAN GRACE (NO. 2) FACTS In June 1987 the respondent defendants' vessel Indian Grace loaded a cargo of munitions in Sweden for carriage to Cochin in India and delivery to the appellant plaintiffs, the Indian Government. The vessel sailed. A few days later a fire occurred in the no. 3 hold of the vessel. The master and crew extinguished the fire with water. They also jettisoned 51 artillery shells and 10 charges. The vessel put into Cherbourg for survey and to repack and restow the cargo in no. 3 hold. Upon completion of the necessary work the vessel resumed her voyage to Cochin. She arrived at Cochin in early September, and the cargo was cleared by 4 September 1987. In the next few months the Indian Government notified two separate claims to the defendants. The first was a claim for the total loss of the cargo of munitions. The second was a small claim for short delivery based on the loss of the cargo jettisoned after the fire. On 1 September 1988 the Indian Government issued a plaint in the subordinate judge court in Cochin, seeking damages for the 51 shells and 10 charges which had not been delivered. The owners served a defence. This action came on for final hearing in December 1989. After a contested trial the judge gave judgment for the Indian Government for the amount of its claim in rupees. At that time the sterling equivalent was PS7,200. An appeal against this judgment is still pending. On 25 August 1989 (i.e. before judgment in the action in Cochin) the Indian Government caused a writ in rem to be issued in the Admiralty Court in England. On 4 May 1990 the writ was served on the Indian Endurance, a sister ship of the Indian Grace, at Tees Dock, Middlesbrough. In due course the parties agreed to the application of English law and the owners submitted to the jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court. The plaintiffs' case was that the munitions were subjected to radiant heat by the fire, and were consequently unreliable and worthless. The claim was largely made in Swedish kronor. The sterling equivalent was PS2.6m. Initially, the defendants pleaded issue estoppel as a defence to the claim: they said that the plaintiffs could and should have brought their whole claim before the court in Cochin. The defendants applied to strike out the claim. The House ruled that there was an identity between causes of action in the two sets of proceedings. But Lord Goff of Chieveley, speaking for a unanimous House, held that section 34 operated as a bar against proceedings rather than as an exclusion of jurisdiction. Accordingly, the operation of section 34 could in principle be defeated by agreement, waiver or estoppel. Lord Goff concluded that the matter ought to be remitted to the Admiralty Court to consider the

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