Average when applied to maritime commerce, means, a payment made by all the persons involved in a sea adventure, to make good an identifiable loss or expense incurred by one or more of them for the general benefit (Stevens, 1835: 4).
The law of general average is an accepted form of spreading the risk of sea transport that existed before marine insurance. It rests on the principle that loss or expenditures incurred in a maritime venture for the benefit of all should be shared ratably by all who participate in the venture.
Heimer (1989: 123), states that the general average means “general loss.” It stipulates that if a ship was in any peril and shipment was jettisoned to rescue the ship, then the ship and residual shipment were obligated to make a payment to the owner of the lost shipment. According to Hopkins (1859: 6), general average means a contribution according to value made by the associated interests which form a marine adventure, these parties being the ship itself, the merchandise she carries and the freight she earns. Baughen (2009: 325), defines general average as a right of contribution as between the various interests in a sea voyage: the ship. the cargo owners. and the party entitled to freight. It is imposed throughout the world as part of the law of the sea. It is a form of mutual insurance that developed before the emergence of marine insurance.
According to Tudor (1868: 102), the general average refers to all loss which arises in consequence of extraordinary expenses incurred in the preservation of the ship and cargo. That is all the expenses incurred from the misadventure, till all the cargo had been discharged, confessedly constituted.
In order to give rise to a charge as general average, it is important that there should be a voluntary sacrifice to preserve more subjects than one exposed to common jeopardy. The purpose of this contribution is the repayment of some expense incurred or the restitution of something valuable sacrificed .for the benefit of the whole.