Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Freight Definition:

The money paid by a person for the transportation of goods.

Related Terms: Affreightment

From time to time, the law gives specific names to the amount of money paid pursuant to contract for a particular service such as for the lease of real estate, rent.

And so it is, particular to the contract of affreightment: the money or cash consideration is called freight. Freight has also been described as passage-money.

John Bouvier, in his 1839 American Law Dictionary described freight as:

"The sum agreed on for the hire of a ship, entirely or in part, for the carriage of goods from one port to another."

Unfortunately, although the historic and strict legal definition of freight is the financial compensation paid in exchange for the services rendered within a transportation contract (aka carriage contract), many judges have used the term to refer not only to that compensation, but also to the thing, goods or even passengers being thus transported or carried.

Another area of uncertainty in maritime law is that in varying contexts, freight may or may not include the monies given not for the carriage of things but for the carriage of persons. For example, from 1894 American case, The Main v Williams, in which Justice Brown wrote:

"There is no reason ... for giving to the word 'freight' a narrow and technical definition. The fares of the passengers are as much within the reason of the rule as the freight of the cargo."

The 1906 version of the English Marine Insurance Act which defines freight in a circular manner as follows (emphasis added):

"... the profit derivable by a shipowner from the employment of his ship to carry his own goods or movables, as well as freight payable by a third party, but does not include passage money."

Conversely, the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 of the same jurisdiction states that freight "includes passage money and hire."

In any event, as regards the transportation of goods, freight is generally payable to the carrier upon safe arrival and discharge of the goods.

References and Further Reading:

  • Duhaime, Lloyd Maritime Law Dictionary
  • Duhaime.org wishes to thank Mr. Darren Williams, maritime law lawyer of Victoria, British Columbia, for his assistance in suggesting this definition.
  • Gaskell, N. and others, Chorley & Giles' Shipping Law (London: Pitman Publishing, 1987).
  • Gilmore, G., and Black, C., The Law of Admiralty (New York: The Foundation Press, 1975).
  • Marine Insurance Act 1906, § 90.
  • Merchant Shipping Act 1995, §187(6).
  • Scrutton on Charterparties and Bills of Lading, 20th Edition, London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1996.
  • The Main v Williams 152 US 122

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