Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Dunnage Definition:

Materials used by ships to secure and protect cargo.

A shipper has the legal obligation to protect the cargo being transported including, inter alia, by the use of other material necessary to prevent the cargo from moving around loose in the hold, or by being spoiled or damaged by the elements or sea-water. That material is called dunnage.

In his 1839 publication Bouvier's Law Dictionary, American jurist John Bouvier defined dunnage in keeping with his epoque of wood ships and small cargo holds:

"Dunnage: pieces of wood placed against the sides and bottoms of the hold of a vessel to preserve the cargo from the effect of leakage according to its nature and quality."

Shipping and ships have evolved since the era of John Bouvier and thus we have the expanded modern description of dunnage in Volume 2 of Carver's Carriage by Sea:

"The ship must provide whatever dunnage may be required such as mats, battens, loose wood etc. These are needful to keep the goods in their places; to prevent their being injured by contact with other goods, or with the sides of the ship; and to maintain the spaces required for ventilation and for allowing any drainage, and any leakage of the ship...."

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