Assignee’s right to damages for cargo claim. Title to sue is not the whole story.

 

In making a cargo claim, a party’s title to sue is separate to the question of whether it has suffered loss and is thus entitled to substantial damages. The issue arose in The Fehn Heaven [2018] EWHC 1606 (Comm) where charterers loaded a cargo of organic sunflower seeds and organic wheat, carried under two straight bills of lading which named Justorganic, as consignee. At some stage in the voyage the cargo had to be fumigated and as a consequence it could no longer be sold as organic. Charterers had to discount the price to their two Dutch buyers and sought to recover the amount of the discounts from the shipowner. They claimed in arbitration against the shipowner either as assignees of the consignee’s rights under the bills of lading or in their own right under the charterparty.

The tribunal awarded the charterers damages and found that charterers had title to sue, as assignee of the consignee’s rights under the bill of lading. However, the tribunal  made no express finding that Justorganic, the assignor, had suffered loss. This was a critical absence in the award because of the principle that an assignee could not recover more from the debtor than the assignor could have done had there been no assignment.(Chitty on Contracts (32nd edition at paragraph 19-075). The award could not be upheld on the alternative basis of charterers’ claim, that they had a right to recover their losses under the charterparty, as it was clear that the tribunal had decided that charterers’  title to sue was based on the assignment rather than on the charterparty. Owners’ appeal, therefore, succeeded and the matter was remitted to the tribunal.

Stuck in the middle with you.  Back to back time bar clauses in chain of charters.

 

 

P v Q, Q v R, R v S [2018] EWHC 1399 (Comm) involved three voyage charters in the middle of a lengthy chain, between P and Q, Q and R, and R and S. Each contained the same time bar clause barring all claims if arbitration was not commenced within thirteen months of final discharge. Final discharge was on 16 October 2015 and  in September 2016 cargo claims were made against the owners and duly passed down the chain. On 16 November 2016 after their office had closed, P received notification of the appointment of an arbitrator by their disponent owner, Sinochart. By the time they became aware of this on 17 November, the thirteen month time limit in their charter with Q had expired.  P notified Q and appointed an arbitrator on 30 November. Q then contacted R and appointed  their arbitrator on 17 November, with R doing likewise to S, appointing their arbitrator on 1 December.

The notices of arbitration down the three charter chain from P to S were all out of time. However, P argued there had to be an implicit limitation on the literal meaning of the arbitration clause C so that the time bar would not apply where it was impossible for a claim to be passed on within the stipulated time because the recipient of a notice of claim was unaware of the claim or receipt of a notice thereof, or where, at the expiration of the time limit, no dispute existed that could be made the subject of a commencement of arbitration.  A similar argument had been raised, and rejected, in  The Himmerland [1965] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 353 and in The Stephanos [1989] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 506  in which it had been held that the three month Centrocon arbitration clause should be given a literal construction, so that claims or disputes that had not even arisen within the stipulated period were nonetheless time-barred. Sir Richard Field, acting as a judge of the High Court, did likewise, noting that the words in the arbitration clauses were clear and ambiguous and should be given the same construction as was given in the Centrocon cases.

Time could be extended under s.12 of the Arbitration Act 1996 if it were just, but the applicant would need to have acted expeditiously and in a commercially appropriate fashion to commence proceedings once it became aware that a claim was being made against the applicant under the charterparty above or below in the chain.  Q had done so by appointing their arbitrator on 17 November, and were granted an  extension but this was not the case with P who had appointed  their arbitrator on 25 November, nor with R who had appointed their arbitrator on 1 December.

 

 

BIMCO Piracy Clause (2009) and duty to proceed with due despatch

 

 

In London Arbitration 13/18 the vessel was time chartered under a charter on NYPE form which incorporated the BIMCO Piracy Clause for Time Charter Parties (March 2009). This provides:.

(c) If the Owners consent or if the Vessel proceeds to or through an area exposed to risk of piracy the Owners shall have the liberty:

(i) to take reasonable preventive measures to protect the vessel, her crew and cargo including but not limited to taking a reasonable alternative route, proceeding in convoy, using escorts, avoiding day or night navigation, adjusting speed or course, or engaging security personnel or equipment on or about the vessel,

 

Owners employed armed guards and purchased additional security equipment when proceeding through an area exposed to risk of piracy, in this case the Gulf of Aden. Charterers contended that the options in paragraph (c)(ii) of the Piracy Clause were disjunctive so that owners could not recover both costs. The Tribunal disagreed and held that the clause made it clear that the owners were not so limited and could recover both costs. However, owners’ liberty to take ‘reasonable preventive measures’ did not justify their decision to proceed via a route which skirted the border of the high risk area, and constituted a breach of their obligation under cl. 8 to prosecute voyages with due despatch. The vessel employed armed guards for the fourth voyage and had installed a new set of protective materials and had the maximum level of security measures as set out under Best Management Practices 4 for Gulf of Aden Transits, Somalia Transits and Indian Ocean Transits. It was unreasonable to route the vessel in such a way that there would be no chance of interference from pirates and the owners were in breach of cl.8 for which the charterers were awarded damages in hire and fuel costs.

 

A further issue arose as to owners’ right to claim crew war bonuses from charterers. Clause 57 provided that when trading in the Gulf of Aden the crew war bonus if any was to be for charterers’ account. Owners claimed that the only condition was that the war bonus must actually have been paid to the crew. However, the Tribunal pointed to the BIMCO Piracy Clause which provided:

(d) Costs…

(ii) If the Owners become liable under the terms of employment to pay to the crew any bonus or additional wages in respect of sailing into an area which is dangerous in the manner defined by the said terms, then the actual bonus or additional wages paid shall be reimbursed to the owners by the charterers at the same time as the next payment of hire is due, or upon redelivery, whichever occurs first.

 

To be recoverable from charterers any bonus had to be one which owners were obliged to pay under the crew’s terms of employment. Here, the relevant terms provided that a bonus for transit of the Extended Risk Zone would be paid only if the vessel were attacked, which had not been the case. Accordingly, owners were not entitled to recover from charterers the bonus they had paid to the crew.

 

 

 

Meaning of ‘similar amendment’ in cl.8(b) of 1996 Inter-Club Agreement

Agile  Holdings Corporation v Essar Shipping Ltd [2018] EWHC 1055 (Comm) is a recent decision on the meaning of “similar amendment” in cl.8(b) of the 1996 Inter-Club Agreement (‘ICA’), in favour of the claimant shipowners, represented by IISTL’s Simon Rainey QC.

The “Maria” was time chartered for a single trip from Tunisia to India via Trinidad, carrying a consignment of direct reduced iron (“DRI”) which is  highly reactive and combustible in the presence of heat or water. During loading the cargo onto the vessel by means of a conveyor belt at Port Lisas, Trinidad, the belt was seen to have caught fire, but the appointed supercargo inspected the holds and advised that loading could continue. The cargo was still on fire during the voyage and cargo interests, an associated company of the charterers, brought a claim against the shipowners. In turn, they claimed a 100% indemnity from the charterers under the Inter-Club Agreement 1996 which was incorporated into the charter. The charter was on NYPE 1946 form, with an unamended cl.8, so under cl.8(b) of the ICA owners would be entitled to a 100% indemnity in respect of claims “in fact arising out of the loading, stowage, lashing, discharge, storage or other handling of cargo”.

The clause contains the proviso “ unless [1]  the words “and responsibility” are added in clause 8 [of the NYPE form]” to which the 1996 form added the words  “or there is a similar amendment making the Master responsible for cargo handling”, in which case a 50/50 split applies. Charterers pointed to cl.49 which provided “The Stevedores although appointed and paid by Charterers/Shippers/Receivers and or their Agents, to remain under the direction of the Master who will be responsible for proper stowage and seaworthiness and safety of the vessel…” and argued that this constituted a ‘similar amendment’. Charterers argued that  this would transfer back responsibility to the owners that aspect of cargo handling which was in fact in issue in the particular case. His Honour Judge Waksman QC rejected this, and held the required “similar amendment” must be one which would have the same effect as the addition of the words “any responsibility” and therefore, connotes the transfer of all aspects of cargo handling generally back to the Owner. He went on to observe that Clause 49 only transferred back responsibility for stowage, and probably only stowage affecting the seaworthiness or safety of the vessel. A transfer back of stowage only did not connote any transfer back of other cargo handling responsibilities.

Demurrage or detention? Agreement for vessel to wait mid-voyage.

 

What is the nature of a claim for compensation when the parties to a sale contract agree that the vessel shall wait for orders mid voyage? Demurrage, or detention? This was the question that came before the court in Glencore Energy UK Ltd v OMV Supply & Trading Ltd [2018] EWHC 895 (Comm).

Glencore Energy sold oil on cfr terms to OMV Supply & Trading. There was congestion at the discharge port of Trieste and OMV asked Glencore that the carrying vessel should wait offshore until a berth was available, to which Glencore agreed.  On arrival at the waiting area the vessel’s master served NOR. The sale contract provided for 36 hours laytime at disport, commencing 6 hours after tendering of NOR or on commencement of discharge, and provided for demurrage to be paid in accordance with the  actual charterparty rate. The clause also required any claim for demurrage to be received latest 90 days from completion of discharge otherwise it would be deemed to have been waived. The contract also incorporated the BP 2007 General Terms and Conditions for CFR deliveries.

Glencore claimed compensation for the period waiting offshore at OMV’s request by reference to the demurrage rate, as well as for the cost of bunkers consumed there. This was a detention claim on the basis of an implied contract. The claim was submitted outside the 90 day period for submission of demurrage claims and OMV rejected it, arguing that the claim was a claim for demurrage, in that laytime was advanced when the master served NOR on arrival at the waiting area, with the demurrage provisions following mechanically.

Sir Ross Cranston held that the waiting period did not fall within the laytime and demurrage provisions in the sale contract or the incorporated BP terms. The former referred to laytime at disport and the latter defined laytime as time allowed for loading and unloading. The NOR given by the master could not start laytime for a waiting period during which there was neither loading or unloading. Glencore were entitled to compensation for the waiting time at the demurrage rate, together with the cost of bunkers consumed during the waiting time. Their acceptance of OMV’s request gave rise to an implied contract for “delay by agreement” under which the vessel would wait until further orders and Glencore would be remunerated for that service. The claim was one for detention, not demurrage, and accordingly was not within the time bar provisions for demurrage claims.

What constitutes a ‘claim’ under stakeholder proceedings? The CV Stealth (again).

 

 

The CV Stealth involved the lengthy detention of the vessel in Venezuela while waiting to load cargo, pursuant to time charterers’ orders. This resulted in claims for  hire during this period by head owners against the bareboat charterers and indemnity claims by the bareboat charterers against the time charterers.  The bareboat charter remains in force, although the vessel was redelivered under the time charter in 2015. The case has already come before the Commercial Court on two occasions (reported in this blog on May 24th 2016  and  November 16th 2017).  It has now come back for a third time, ST shipping and Transport Pte Ltd & Ors v. Space Shipping Ltd, Psara Energy Ltd [2018] EWHC 156 (Comm), with an issue as to what constitutes a ‘claim’ for the purposes of stakeholder proceedings under CPR Rule 86.1 which provides: “ This Part contains rules which apply where — a person is under a liability in respect of a debt or in respect of any money, goods or chattels; and competing claims are made or expected to be made against that person in respect of that debt or money or for those goods or chattels by two or more persons.”

The time charterers had become subject to an award under which they were to pay $6.4m to disponent owners. They then became notified by head owners of an assignment in their favour by disponent owners of $1,787,375 reflecting 181 days’ hire under the bareboat charter. Disponent owners subsequently made a claim for the full of the award of $6.4m  under a letter of undertaking that had been issued by Glencore, as guarantors for time charterers. The demand took no account of the assignment effected in favour of head owners, and Glencore and time charterers issued stakeholder proceedings in respect of US$6.4m held by time charterers’ solicitors. Disponent owners then accepted that the sum representing 181 days hire which had been the subject of the assignment could be paid out to head owners.

However, charterers did not accept that they had now received the “all clear” to pay the balance to disponent owners. First, a dispute remained between head owners and disponent owners as to the scope of the assignment although this was swiftly decided against head owners in the third arbitration. Secondly, the head owners then obtained from the US District Court of Connecticut a Rule B attachment order which attached or garnished “the debts of [the charterers] to [the disponent owners]”, in support of their claims against the  disponent owners totalling some US$19.6m. The head owners then gave notice of the order to the time charterers pursuant to which they said that the charterers were directed to “attach and freeze and all tangible or intangible property and/or assets held for the benefit of [the disponent owners]”.  Head owners claimed that this gave then a proprietary claim over time charterers’ debt to the disponent owners. The order was subsequently vacated on charterers’ application of the grounds that as the court could not exercise personal jurisdiction over charterers, property held by the charterers were outside the jurisdiction of the court. Head owners appealed against the decision. Charterers resisted the payment out of the sums in the stakeholder account because there was still the risk of a double payment, if head owners’ appeal in the Rule B proceedings were successful.

The matter came before the Commercial Court and Teare J had to decide whether there was a stakeholder claim within CPR Part 86. The disponent owners submitted that this stakeholder claim was not within CPR Part 86 because there were no “competing claims ”.  First, the disponent owners did not have a claim, but, rather, an arbitration award. The disponent owners relied on Stevenson & Son v Brownell [1912] 2 Ch 344 and the note in the White Book at 86.1.2 based upon that case to the effect that “claim” in interpleader or stakeholder actions did not extend to concluded claims where judgment has been obtained . Second, Part 86 requires or envisages proceedings in the English court, whereas here the Rule B proceedings had been commenced in Connecticut, not in in England. Teare J rejected both contentions and held that there was a ‘claim’ within CPR Part 86. The context of Part 86 did not require ‘claim’ to be limited to proceedings before an English court and a competing claim could be one that was made in another jurisdiction. The present case was distinguishable from Stevenson, a case involving two competing claims to royalties, one of which had ripened into a judgment. The present case did not concern rival claims by two persons claiming to be entitled to be paid hire under the time charterparty. Rather, head owners claimed a proprietary right by way of lien on the chose in action represented by the disponent owners’ right to payment of the award by the charterers. Furthermore, although the disponent owners were the beneficiaries of several arbitration awards they were not judgment creditors.

A further issue was whether Glencore were entitled to claim stakeholder relief as they had only been subject to one claim under the LOU, from the disponent owners. Teare J found that as the LOU was a contract of surety it was sensible that both the primary obligor and the surety were made party to the stakeholder claim.

Teare J then decided that the sum in the stakeholder account should be paid out to the disponent owners. There was no risk of time charterers being later ordered to pay the same sum to head owners if their Rule B appeal were to succeed. As party to the stakeholder claim, head owners were bound  by reason of the doctrine of res judicata by any order the court makes. The court’s order would estop them  from contending that they, rather than the disponent owners, were entitled to the debt owed by the charterers.

“Always Accessible” covers your going out as well as your coming in.

 

The term ‘always accessible’ in a voyage charter has been treated as synonymous with ‘reachable on arrival’ in the light of the decision in London Arbitration 11/97. Consequently the warranty has been thought to apply only to arrival at a berth and not to cover departure.  In Seatrade Group N.V v Hakan Agro D.M.C.C. (“The Aconcagua Bay”) [2018] EWHC 654 (Comm), 26 March 2018, the High Court has now held that the warranty covers both arrival and departure from a berth and has overturned the decision of the umpire applying the received wisdom that the warranty did not apply to departure.

Robin Knowles J, C.B.E stated: “Did the parties intend to provide for departure in the wording they used? Where commercial parties have addressed the question of the accessibility of a berth, I can see no basis for a conclusion that they should be taken to have addressed entry alone. Importantly in my view the Umpire did not provide an answer to this. The submission by Mr Nevil Phillips and Mr Ben Gardner for the Owners that the reasonable commercial party looking at the subject of berthing would bear all aspects in mind and not confine itself to getting into the berth, is to my mind decisive….The term “reachable on arrival” is to be found in some charterparties (particularly tanker charters according to London Arbitration 5/12 in LMLN 1 Oct 2012). The Owners submit that this self-evidently applies to arrival only. I am left with the perspective that there is a useful vocabulary from which parties can choose, if “always accessible” applies to departure as well as entry and if “reachable on arrival” applies to entry alone.”

Hague rules. No limitation for bulk cargo.

 

On Wednesday in The Aqasia [2018] EWCA Civ 276 the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of Sir Jeremy Cooke [2016] EWHC 2514 (Comm) that “unit” in Article IV rule 5 of the Hague Rules means a physical item of cargo and not a unit of measurement. The case involved a cargo claim against owners under a voyage charter for the carriage of bulk fishoil, which provided that “The Owners in all matters arising under this Contract shall also be entitled to the like privileges and rights and immunities as are contained in Sections 2 and 5 of the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act 1924 and in Article IV of the Schedule thereto …”

 

Flaux LJ reasoned that the word “package” clearly referred to a physical item and the use of the words “package” and “unit” together and in the same context pointed strongly to both words being concerned with physical items rather than units of measurement. “Unit” refers to a physical item which is not a “package”, because, for example, it is incapable of being packaged or is not in fact packaged. This was the construction accepted by courts in other common law jurisdictions and favoured by the majority of academic commentators and textbooks.

 

It was also clearly confirmed by the travaux préparatoires for the Hague Rules. There was no suggestion in the travaux préparatoires that “unit” had been introduced to cater for bulk cargoes.  Any limitation by reference to weight or volume was abandoned by the end of the session on 31 August 1921, as was any limitation by reference to a multiplier of freight by the end of the session on 1 September 1921. The word “unit” had been introduced to cater for items of cargo which are carried without packaging, such as cars or boilers.

 

Accordingly, there is no limitation available under the Hague Rules in respect of loss or damage to bulk or liquid cargo. The Court of Appeal also rejected owners’ argument that the words of Article IV were written into the charterparty so that every provision in the Article must be given meaning and effect in the context of the carriage of the bulk cargo contemplated by the charterparty. On the correct construction of the charterparty, owners were entitled to rely upon no more than what Article IV provides.

 

Is  a ‘Waiting for orders’ claim a demurrage claim?

 

 

The answer to this question matters because of the documents required under a time bar clause for “demurrage claims”.

In The Ocean Neptune [2018] EWHC 163 (Comm) the vessel was chartered for a voyage from Taiwan to three Australian discharge ports on ExxonMobil VOY2005 form, and the Lukoil International Trading and Supply Company Exxonvoy 2005 clauses dated 30.05.2006 (“the LITASCO Clauses”). Clause 2 of the Litasco clauses provided a requirement for demurrage claims to be provided with supporting documentation within 90 days of completion of final discharge, with a similar provision for other claims but with a time limit of 120 days. In addition cl. 2(b) specified the types of documentation that had to be required for a demurrage claim.  Clause 4 of the Litasco clauses was a ‘waiting for orders’ clause which provided “If charterers require vessel to interrupt her voyage awaiting at anchorage further orders, such delay to be for charterers’ account and shall count as laytime or demurrage, if vessel on demurrage. Drifting clause shall apply if the ship drifts.”

At Gladstone, the first discharge port, the vessel berthed but then shifted back to the anchorage, remaining there for more than a month until charterers ordered the vessel to sail to Botany Bay.  The reason for the delay at Gladstone was that the receivers, Caltex, refused to take delivery of the cargo on the grounds that it was alleged to be contaminated/off specification. Owners initially presented this delay claim as a demurrage claim, but then reformulated it as a claim under cl. 4. The Tribunal held the Owners’ demurrage claims were barred because they failed to include a statement of facts for the loading port and the discharging ports, countersigned by the terminal, or if it was impossible to obtain such a countersignature, a letter of protest from the Master, as required by cl. 2(b). However, the Tribunal found that cl.2(b) did not apply to the claim for delay under cl.4. Charterers appealed against the finding.

Popplewell J allowed the appeal. The claim under clause 4 was a demurrage claim. Demurrage was defined by clause 13(d) of the ExxonMobil VOY2005 form which provided that demurrage was to be paid for all time by which the allowed laytime “is exceeded by time taken for loading and discharging and for all other Charterer’s purposes and which, under this Charter, counts as laytime or as time on demurrage.”  Clause 4 provided that the delay caused by waiting at anchorage shall “count as” used laytime or demurrage. Demurrage was not limited to a claim where charterers had exceeded the allowed laytime by the time taken for loading and discharging. The waiting time was, therefore, time taken for Charterers’ purposes which under the charter counted as laytime or demurrage.  This was to be contrasted with other clauses in the charter which provided merely that compensation for delay caused by breach would be at the demurrage rate.

 

Repudiation claims and voyage charter timebar clause

 

Demurrage time bar clauses are a commonplace in tanker charters. They require owners to submit their claim with supporting documentation within a specified period of time after completion of discharge, failing which the claim is extinguished. Some clauses extend this regime to all claims by owners against charterers. However, what happens to the time bar when the cargo is never discharged, because charterers have repudiated the charter and have never loaded a cargo? The Tribunal in London Arbitration 3/18 has found that the clause which discharged the charterer from all liability if appropriate documentation is not provided “within 90 days after completion of discharge at last discharging port” did not affect owners’ load port demurrage claim, nor their  cancellation claim. The clause could not operate effectively in circumstances where the contemplated voyage was not performed at all. If charterers had wanted the clause to operate in these circumstances, they needed to provide clearly for this eventuality, as is the case with the Hague/Hague-Visby Rules which discharge an owner from liability if suit was not brought within one year of the delivery of the goods or of the “date when they should have been delivered”. A similar finding was made by Nigel Teare QC, as he then was, in The Bow Cedar,[2005] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 275.