Defective manufacture or defective design

A naval architect was instructed to design a vessel, to be used in a successful commercial passenger service, which could reach speeds of up to 20 knots in reasonable weather conditions. During sea trials in extremely unfavourable weather conditions, the vessel reached speeds far in excess of 20 knots. However, whilst the vessel was in its early days of service it suffered various cracks in the hull, which the claimant alleged was caused by inadequate welding design – not inadequate welding. The naval architect alleged that the cracks were not due to inadequate welding design but rather due to the vessel being operated beyond its recommended parameters in unfavourable weather conditions. The vessel was repaired but the cracks returned on a number of occasions. Obviously the service could not be closed whilst the vessel was in the shipyard, therefore another suitable vessel had to be chartered by the owner. A further dispute arose concerning the quality of the repairs by the shipyard and whether the alleged poor standard of repair work had led to further cracks appearing in the hull.

The owner brought a claim against the architect and the shipyard for the cost of repairs, loss of profits, loss of use of the vessel, chartering costs and diminution of value of the vessel. The matter was eventually settled for the cost of repairs and the cost of hiring a replacement vessel only.

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