EXTRACT FROM THE MERCHANT SHIPPING ACT, 1951

[As amended by by section 33 of Act
30 of 1959, section 7 of Act 25 of 1985 and section 4 of Act 16 of 1995
and the Shipping General Amendment Act, 1997, the latter with effect from 1 September 1997]


Website note:
Sec 261 of the Merchant Shipping Act has been amended as above to make provision for a shipowner to limit his liability by tonnage, applying a factor calculated according to the SDR. The rand equivalent of the Special Drawing Right is established daily by the IMF and can be found on the
IMF's SDR website.

The section as amended will not be retrospective by reason of subsec 2 of the amendment which reads:

(2) Section 261 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1951, as amended by subsection (1), shall not apply in respect of a cause of action that arose before the date of commencement of this section

Section 261 of Act 57 of 1951, as amended now reads:

261. When owner not liable for whole damage

(1) The owner of a ship, whether registered in the Republic or not, shall not, if any loss of life or personal injury to any person, or any loss of or damage to any property or rights of any kind, whether movable or immovable, is caused without his actual fault or privity-

(a) if no claim for damages in respect of loss of or damage to property or rights arises, be liable for damages in respect of loss of life or personal injury to an aggregate amount exceeding 206,67 special drawing rights for each ton of the ship's tonnage; or

(b) if no claim for damages in respect of loss of life or personal injury arises, be liable for damages in respect of loss of or damage to property or rights to an aggregate amount exceeding 66,67 special drawing rights for each ton of the ship's tonnage; or

(c) if claims for damages in respect of loss of life or personal injury and also claims for damages in respect of loss of or damage to property or rights arise, be liable for damages to an aggregate amount exceeding 206,67 special drawing rights for each ton of the ship's tonnage: Provided that in such a case claims for damages in respect of loss of life or personal injury shall, to the extent of an aggregate amount equivalent to 140 special drawing rights for each ton of the ship's tonnage, have priority over claims for damages in respect of loss of or damage to property or rights, and, as regards the balance of the aggregate amount equivalent to 206,67 special drawing rights for each ton of the ship's tonnage, the unsatisfied portion of the first-mentioned claims shall rank pari passu with the last-mentioned claims.

(2) The provisions of this section shall extend and apply to the owners, builders or other persons interested in any ship built at any port or place in the Republic, from and including the launching of such ship until the registration thereof under the provisions of this Act.

(3) The provisions of this section shall apply in respect of claims for damages in respect of loss of life, personal injury and loss of or damage to property or rights arising on any single occasion, and in the application of the said provisions claims for damages in respect of loss, injury or damage arising out of two or more distinct occasions shall not be combined.

(4) (a) The amounts mentioned in subsection (1) shall be converted into South African currency on the basis of the value of such currency on the date of the judgment or the date agreed upon by the parties.

(b) For the purpose of converting from special drawing rights into South African currency the amounts mentioned in subsection (1) in respect of which a judgment is given, one special drawing right shall be treated as equal to such a sum in South African currency as the International Monetary Fund have fixed as being the equivalent of one special drawing right for-

(i) the day on which the judgment is given; or

(ii) if no sum has been so fixed for that day, the last day before that day for which a sum has been so fixed.

(c) A certificate given by or on behalf of the Treasury stating-

(i) that a particular sum in South African currency has been so fixed for a particular day; or

(ii) that no sum has been so fixed for that day and that a particular sum in South African currency has been so fixed for a day which is the last day for which a sum has been so fixed before the particular day, shall be prima facie proof of those matters for the purposes of subsection (1); and a document purporting to be such a certificate shall, in any proceedings, be admissible in evidence and, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, be deemed to be such a certificate.


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