ACT OF CONGRESS, 1893 (HARTER ACT).
An Act relating to navigation of vessels, bills of lading, and to certain obligations, duties, and rights in connexion with the carriage of property.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, that it shall not be lawful for the manager, agent, master or owner of any vessel transporting merchandise or property from or between ports of the United States and foreign ports to insert in any bill of lading or shipping document any clause, covenant, or agreement, whereby it, he, or they shall be relieved from liability for loss or damage arising from negligence, fault or failure in proper loading, stowage, custody, care, or proper delivery of any and all lawful merchandise or property committed to its or their charge. Any and all words or clauses of such import inserted in bills of lading or shipping receipts shall be null and void and of no effect.
§ 2. That it shall not be lawful for any vessel transporting merchandise or property from or between ports of the United States of America, and foreign ports, her owner, master, agent, or manager to insert in any bill of lading or shipping document any covenant or agreement whereby the obligations of the owner or owners of the said vessel to exercise due diligence, properly equip, man, provision, and outfit said vessel, and to make said vessel seaworthy and capable of performing her intended voyage, or whereby the obligations of the master, officers, agents, or servants to carefully handle and stow her cargo, and to care for and properly deliver same, shall in any wise be lessened, weakened, or avoided.
§ 3. That if the owner of any vessel transporting merchandise or property to or from any port in the United States of America shall exercise due diligence to make the said vessel in all respects seaworthy and properly manned, equipped, and supplied, neither the vessel, her owner or owners, agent, or charterers, shall become or be held responsible for damage or loss resulting from faults or errors in navigation, or in the management of the said vessel, nor shall the vessel, her owner or owners, charterers, agents, or master be held liable for losses arising from dangers of the sea or other navigable waters, acts of God, or public enemies, or the inherent defect, quality, or vice of the things carried, or from insufficiency of package, or seizure under legal process, or for loss resulting from any act or omission of the shipper or owner of the goods, his agent or representative, or from saving or attempting to save life or property at sea, or from any deviation in rendering such service.
§ 4. That it shall be the duty of the owner or owners, master or agent of any vessel transporting merchandise or property from or between ports of the United States and foreign ports to issue to shippers of any lawful merchandise a bill of lading, or shipping document stating, among other things, the marks necessary for identification, number of packages, or quantity, stating whether it be carrier’s or shipper’s weight and apparent order or condition of such merchandise or property delivered to and received by the owner, master, or agent of the vessel for transportation, and such document shall be prima facie evidence of the receipt of the merchandise therein described.
§ 5. That for a violation of any of the provisions of this Act, the agent, owner, or master of the vessel guilty of such violation, and who refuses to issue on demand the bill of lading herein provided for, shall be liable to a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars.
The amount of the fine and costs for such violation shall be a lieu upon the vessel, whose agent, owner, or master is guilty of such violation, and such vessel may be libelled therefor in any district court of the United States, within whose jurisdiction the vessel may be found. One-half of such penalty shall go to the party injured by such violation, and the remainder to the Government of the United States.
§ 6. That this Act shall not be held to modify or repeal sections forty-two hundred and eighty-one, forty-two hundred and eighty-two, and forty-two hundred and eighty-three of the Revised Statutes of the United States, or any other Statute defining the liability of vessels, their owners, or representatives.
Approved, February 13th, 1893.
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