Could a rubber duck be a vessel under Dutch Law?

This question was always asked at the introductory maritime law lecture by Professor Claringbould.
And with reason, since it is an important question to consider for those who want to get involved with maritime law.
The answer is, of course, ‘that depends’. Do you want to know why it depends and on what? Find out below.

Ships: From VLCC to rubber duck


Everyone understands that a Very Large Crude Carrier, a super tanker with a length of more than 450 m (the crew cycles across the deck from the bridge to the bow in five minutes in calm seas), is a ship. The same applies to a container vessel with a capacity of 20.000 TEU (Twenty Foot Equivalent Units). The largest container vessels measuring 400 m in length, can carry 20,000 containers with a length of 6,10 m each.

A jack-up drilling rig, the mobile oil platform with self-elevating/movable legs of 100 m long that can be placed on the sea bed, causes lawyers some headache, but not in the Netherlands. Here it is also considered a ship!

Section 8:1 Dutch Civil Code (“DCC”) provides: “In this Code, vessels are all objects, other than aircraft, which, according to their construction, are destined to float and which float or have done so.” 

According to this definition, a buoy, an object which according to its construction is destined to float and which floats, is a ship. The same applies to a wreck: the ship was previously afloat and therefore remains a ship.

A rubber duck is also a ship, as it is an object that is destined to float according to its construction. However, it should be noted that the rubber duck should have floated in a bathtub at some point during its existence, as an object that has not yet floated cannot be considered a ship. Moreover a regular duck is not a ship: animals are not considered as objects under Dutch law (section 3:2a DCC). Even if a duck could be considered as an object, this object is not destined to float according to its construction.

On the other hand, artist Florentijn Hofman’s large inflatable duck is obviously a ship…

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