The bulk carrier MV Julian caused something of a sensation when it entered Durban’s harbour last May: the unthinkable happened and the vast ship crashed. First the Julian overshot its berth. Then, when an attempt was made to rectify matters, it smashed into the quayside and collided with a bulk ship loader. That loader, weighing 600t and standing about 30m high, was originally said to be a write-off. Since then the damage to the loader has been quantified at around R264m. That’s not to mention the considerable damage to the ship itself and to the quayside. The off-course Julian, which weighed 40,160t, was a hugely destructive vessel. The crash, the surrounding facts and subsequent developments in the story are both novel and significant. But they also illustrate some long-standing legal provisions that might seem strange to nonlawyers. At the time the ship entered the harbour there was on board a pilot provided by the Transnet National Ports Authority. The ship was also attached to ...

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