There are broadly two types of carriers, namely: “common carriers” and “private carriers”, each with peculiar ways of operations.
Common carriers: Under the English Law, which many countries, including Nigeria, have adopted, a common carrier is any company that holds out itself to carry goods for the general public for a reward. It must be a regular occupation of the company but it can limit the type of goods to be carried as well as the distance and duration it is prepared to go. In general, a common carrier advertises its business to the general public through regular publication of its services, ports of call, sailing dates, etc.
Under Common Law, a common carrier is liable for every loss which occurs to the goods while they are in its custody, whether or not it’s his fault. The only exception is where the loss is caused by any of the common law exceptions which are:
- Act of God
- Acts of war or similar hostilities
- The fault of the shipper, through insufficient or improper packing
- Inherent vice, that is, something in the nature of the goods themselves that can result in damage or loss
- Fraud of the shipper
Under ocean transportation, there exist other carriers who do not own any tangible means of transport and so do not actually carry the goods. This type of arrangement, which originated in the USA, with the actual carriers and sell the space to shippers.
Private carriers: These are carriers who carry goods under special contracts made with the shippers. Unlike common carriers, they do not hold out themselves as carriers for the general public. Rather, they publicize themselves as carriers under private “conditions of carriage”. These conditions of carriage usually form part of many contracts called “Standard Form Contracts” used in many commercial transactions. The conditions are usually used to protect them from liabilities. Unlike a common carrier; a private carrier is not liable as an insurer of the goods (i.e. For every loss) except for negligence.
Generally, carriers offer two basic types of services – Liner (or scheduled) and Charter (or Tramp).
Liner (or Scheduled) Service: This involves providing regular sailings or flights that are pre-determined by a specific range of ports that are published to the general public. The term “liner” is often used when referring to sea transportation, while the term “scheduled” applies mostly to air transportation. Air transportation under scheduled services comprises carriers in three sectors- all-cargo carriers, combination carriers (that carry passengers as well as freight in the hold or belly of the planes) and integrators that specializes in door-to-door delivery, acting as both freight forwarders and carriers. Features of a liner or scheduled service include:
- A fleet of ships or aircraft
- Regular service at regular intervals
- Service between two fixed points (named ports)
- Fixed schedules (dates, time, ports, including way ports)
- Predetermined fixed price (tariff) which may differ for some shippers
- Common carrier status
In most cases, liner services are considered to be fast, frequent and reliable. In addition, charges are predictable and delivery times can be estimated and this gives shippers the ability to plan.
Tramp (or Chartered) Services: This service is provided under a specific contract (known as a Charter Party) for the carriage of goods from a particular port to another or for a specified period of time. Freight for this type of services is individually negotiated. Charter parties which embody the contract of affreightment have standard terms and conditions. The term “tramp” relates more to ocean transportation while the term “charter” is commonly used in air freight transportation. Where one shipper charters the whole aircraft under air carriage, it is known as a “single entity”, but if two or more shippers are involved in the charter, it is referred to as “split charter”. An aircraft can be chartered for a certain number of trips or for a period of time.
When chartered for a number of trips, the freight is based on a price per trip. On the other hand, if it is for a period of time, the price is a fixed sum per day plus a rate per flying hour. Charter services are predominantly used for urgent cargo and those that require special handling.
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