Shriro (China)Ltd v Thai Airways International, Ltd

CourtFederal Court (Singapore)
Judgment Date03 May 1967
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No Y29 of 1966
Date03 May 1967
Shriro (China) Ltd and others
Thai Airways International Ltd

[1967] SGFC 10

Wee Chong Jin CJ


Tan Ah Tah FJ


F A Chua J

Civil Appeal No Y29 of 1966

Federal Court

Carriage of Goods by Air and Land–Carriage of goods by air–International treaties and conventions–Liabilities of carrier–Consignment of goods under air consignment note–Goods stolen while in carrier's possession–Whether air consignment note contains requisite particulars–Whether carrier can exclude or limit liability–Convention Relating to the International Carriage by Air 1929 Articles 8 (i), 9–Carriage by Air Act 1932 (c 36) (UK) First Schedule–International Law–Conventions–Interpretation of Convention Relating to the International Carriage by Air 1929–Conflict between wording of French and English texts–Whether court can depart from official English translation of text without benefit of expert evidence

Thai Airways International Ltd was the carrier of a consignment of watches from Bangkok to Singapore (“the carrier”). An airway bill, which was the air consignment note (“the note”), covered the consignment. The watches were stolen while in the carrier's possession at the airport in Singapore. The purchasers and consignees of the watches sued the carrier, claiming damages in respect of the loss of the watches.

At the trial, it was agreed by the parties that the carriage was an international carriage within the meaning of the Convention Relating to the International Carriage by Air (“the Warsaw Convention”). The carrier sought to rely on the provisions of the Warsaw Convention to exclude or limit its liability for the loss. For the carrier to avail itself of the provisions, the note must contain all the particulars set out in Art 8 (a) to (i) inclusive and (q). Article 8 (i) itself contained four particulars. Without having the benefit of expert evidence, the trial judge accepted the carrier's contention that the French text of the Warsaw Convention was ambiguous as to whether the note should contain one of the four particulars, or the first two particulars and either the third or the fourth within Art 8 (i). In contrast, the express wording of the English translation required the first two particulars and either the third or the fourth. The trial judge held that the carrier, in stating the weight of the goods in the note, being one of the four particulars in Art 8 (i), had complied with one of the possible interpretations of the authoritative text. He dismissed the claim with costs. The purchasers and consignees appealed.

Held, allowing the appeal:

(1) In cases in which a question arises concerning the translation of documents which are not in the English language, it is not legitimate for the court to depart from the official translation...

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