Harter Act Law and Legal Definition

Harter Act is a U.S. statute pertaining to merchandise or property transported from or between ports of the United States and foreign ports. Currently, the Act is partially superseded by the US Carriage of Goods by Sea Act of 1936. However, the Harter Act still applies to carriage of goods not subject to COGSA, including the period before loading and after discharge and carriage between U.S. ports unless the bill of lading expressly makes COGSA applicable to such shipments. Harter Act voids clauses in ocean bills of lading which attempt to relieve the vessel owner of liability for loss or damage to cargo arising from negligence in loading, stowage, care and proper delivery or clauses that attempt to avoid or lessen the vessel owner’s obligations to exercise due diligence to provide a seaworthy vessel and crew for the carriage and delivery of cargo. It also relieves a vessel owner of liability for errors in navigation or management of the vessel if the owner exercises due diligence to make the vessel in all respects seaworthy.