Do not fret over air-freight - the freight rule applies to freight earned in carriage by air

Tue, 14 November, 2017

Schenker Ltd v Negocios Europa Ltd (6th October 2017) Moulder J (unreported) - Jonathan Chambers

In an under-reported judgment the English Courts have finally confirmed the oft-presumed position that the English freight rule applies to carriage by air.

The common law rule does not require contractual incorporation. It provides that a claim in respect of damage, loss or delay to cargo cannot be asserted by way of deduction from a freight invoice. Thus a cargo claimant must pay freight in full notwithstanding that his cargo may not have arrived or have arrived damaged or late. The rationale for the rule is that there should be prompt payment, avoidance of delay, protection of cash flow and some assurance that a carrier is not disadvantaged in providing credit.

The English common law “freight rule” has been established for more than 100 years in carriage of goods by sea (The Brede [1974] Q.B. 233 & The Aries [1977] 1 W.L.R. 185) and has been extended to domestic and international road haulage (United Carriers Ltd v Heritage Food Group (UK) Ltd [1996] 1 W.L.R. 371).

Despite the significant difference between the time and cost of transportation by air and sea, the English Court held there was no logical or sensible distinction to be made between different forms of transport and applied the common law rule.

The effect is that summary judgment for freight will now be a potent weapon in the hands of air carriers where cargo claimants seek to withhold payment.


 Jonathan Chambers

Jonathan has a broad practice covering all aspects of commercial and transport law.  He is consistently ranked by Chambers UK and Legal 500 as a Leading Senior Junior  with Chambers UK (2016)  commenting that he is  “Noted by peers for his meticulous preparation, strong advocacy skills and easy manner with clients” and Legal 500 (2016) describing him as “Very well prepared”.

Jonathan has a strong international practice and he is qualified to practise in England & Wales, Northern Ireland (practising) and Australia (currently non-practising). He has also advised on disputes involving Australia, Canada, the Channel Islands, Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Singapore, and the United States of America.

> View Jonathan's full profile