Oil and Nigeria. Two new cases.

  1. In Federal Republic of Nigeria v MT Asteris (Charge FHC/L/239c/2015) the Federal High Court convicted a vessel and its crew of charges that included conspiracy to deal, dealing with, attempting to export and storing crude oil without lawful authority or a licence. The vessel had been arrested while drifting in Nigeria’s exclusive economic zone and Lloyds List data showed that the vessel had been trading in Nigeria. The vessel had 3,423.097 metric tons of petroleum products on board but no documents confirming their origin.
  2. Following Shell’s $55m settlement of an oil spill claim in the Bodo community in Nigeria, two new claims have been filed against Shell in the High Court by London solicitors, Leigh Day, in respect of spills in the Ogale and Bille communities.In the Ogale action, it is alleged that leaks are due to pipelines and infrastructure being several decades old and in a poor state of repair. In 2011 the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) published an Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland which included extensive testing of the Ogale Community. UNEP’s recommended: (i) Emergency measures to provide adequate sources of drinking water to impacted households; (ii) Immediate steps to prevent existing contaminated sites from causing further pollution and; (iii) A substantial programme of clean up and decontamination of impacted sites. It is alleged that Shell has failed to comply with the recommendations of the UNEP Report and to clean up the sites polluted by their oil.In the Bille action it is alleged that creeks, mangroves and island communities have been devastated by oil leaks since the replacement of the Bille Section of the pipeline in 2010. The key issue in the claim will be whether Shell can be liable for failing to protect their pipelines from damage caused by third parties.On 2 March 2016 at the Technology and Construction Court, His Honour Judge Raeside QC, ruled that formal legal proceedings against Shell can now be served on Shell Nigeria (the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd) who will be joined to the English proceedings alongside Royal Dutch Shell plc.

Some improving TV?

A note for 1030 tomorrow and 1100 Wednesday. For those who want a degree of pre-Easter wind-down the Supreme Court is hearing the OW bunkers case (PST Energy 7 Shipping LLC v OW Bunker Malta Ltd [2015] EWCA Civ 1058; [2016] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 228). Watch the excitement live on https://www.supremecourt.uk/live/court-02.html. To remind you, the sexy issue is whether a contract to sell goods (here fuel oil) for immediate consumption on reservation of title terms is a contract for the sale of goods or something else; but there’s a good deal besides. Starring Mance, Clarke, Sumption, Hughes and Toulson: a very decent cast!

Thanks to the guys at the HFW blog for the tip.

GAFTA 49 Notice of Delivery provisions apply to nomination of substitute vessel.

In Ramburs Inc v Agrifert SA [2015] EWHC 3548 (Comm) the High Court has considered the effect of notice provisions in an fob sale when the buyer nominates a substitute vessel. The sale provided for delivery between 15 to 31 March 2013. The buyer was to provide the seller with not less than 10 days’ “pre-advice” of, among other things, the collecting vessel’s name, dimensions and estimated time of arrival. The contract was also subject to the terms of GAFTA 49. Clause 6 “Period of Delivery” provides:

“Buyers shall serve not less than … consecutive day’s [sic] notice of the name and probable readiness date of the vessel and the estimated tonnage required. The Sellers shall have the goods ready to be delivered to the Buyers at any time within the contract period of delivery. Buyers have the right to substitute the nominated vessel, but in any event the original delivery period and any extension shall not be affected thereby. Provided the vessel is presented at the loading port in readiness to load within the delivery period, Sellers shall if necessary complete loading after the delivery period, and carrying charges shall not apply”.

The buyer nominated a vessel on 20 March 2013 with eta 26/27 March and on 26 March nominated a substitute vessel with eta 28 March. The seller asserted that the nomination was invalid and terminated the contract. Andrew Smith J overturned the award of the GAFTA Board of Appeal in favour of the buyer and held that where an FOB buyer nominated a substitute vessel pursuant to its right under GAFTA 49, it had to comply with the terms of the contract of sale as to nomination and pre-advice in respect of the substitute vessel. The GAFTA wording did not constitute a complete code defining and limiting the right to substitution, and did not dispense with any requirement for pre-notice in respect of the substituted vessel.

When is the Fund not the Fund? Venezuela’s unsuccessful fishing expedition.

The 1971 IOPC Fund ceased to exist on 31 December 2014. The 1992 IOPC Fund, however, is still going strong. This fact was not lost on the Venezuelan fishermen’s union who lodged a claim in Venezuela in respect of damage sustained as a result of an oil spill in May 1997 from the tanker Plate Princess. In 2009 they obtained a judgment against the shipowner and also against ‘The International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage’. In March 2015 Master Eastman made a Registration Order in respect of that judgment.

In Sindicato Unico de Pescadores del Municipio Miranda del Estado Zulia v. IOPC [2015] EWHC 2476 (QB); [2016] 1 Lloyd’s Rep Plus 2, Picken J has set aside the Registration Order. The 1992 Fund was not involved in an incident which occurred at a time when Venezuela, although a signatory to the 1992 Protocol, had yet to ratify, accept, approve or accede to it. The Venezuelan judgment could not be regarded as applying to the 1971 Fund Convention as amended by the 1992 Protocol. Even if the judgment had been against the 1992 Fund, there was no relevant exception to the 1992 Fund’s immunity under art. 5(1) of the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund 1992 (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1996. The only possible exception, in art. 5(1)(b) “in respect of actions brought against the 1992 Fund in accordance with the provisions of the [1992] Convention” would not apply.

Insolvency and anticipatory breach. More from Singapore

In The STX Mumbai [2015] SGCA 3; [2016] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 157, the Singapore Court of Appeal has held that the doctrine of anticipatory breach does apply to executed contracts and in appropriate circumstances a party’s insolvency is capable of amounting to an anticipatory breach. Bunkers had been supplied to a vessel with payment to be made within 30 days. A company in the corporate group of which the shipowning company was a part had become insolvent and the bunker supplier took the view that payment was unlikely to be made. Accordingly, three days before the due date for payment, they demanded immediate payment by the close of business, and when that was not forthcoming, arrested the vessel the following day. At first instance the in rem proceedings were struck out as legally unsustainable as the insolvency of an associated company in the shipowner’s corporate group did not amount to an anticipatory breach by the shipowner. Futhermore, the Judge expressed the view that the doctrine of anticipatory breach applied only to executory contracts and not to an executed contract such as the present.

The Court of Appeal disagreed. The doctrine could apply to executed contracts. Although insolvency in itself would not constitute an anticipatory breach, it might well do so in the proper context. Much would depend on the precise facts, which could only be adduced if the action went to trial. The evidence showed some plausible connection between the insolvent company and the shipowner such that it was not completely unarguable that the former’s insolvency could well have made it impossible for the latter to make timely payment under the bunker supply contract in respect of the vessel. Accordingly, the bunker supplier’s case was not legally unsustainable and its claim would not be struck out.

No loss, no damages: latest from the CA

Christmas reading from the English CA for charterparty buffs and damages enthusiasts. In The New Flamenco [2015] EWCA Civ 1299 , decided a couple of days ago, a cruise ship under time-charter at a highish rate was wrongfully redelivered a couple of years early. That’s OK, said the owners: we’ll just have those two years’ lost profits, please (there being no relevant market). Not so fast, say the charterers. You sold the ship on redelivery for a very tidy sum: had we given her back at the proper time the market would have collapsed and you’d have got many millions of dollars less for her — a figure that dwarfs any profits lost. In fact you should be d****d grateful to us for breaking our contract, since you’re actually a great deal better off than if we’d kept it.

Arbitrators hold for the charterers; Teare J on appeal for the owners. In a rare reversal of Teare J, the CA restore the arbitrators’ decision. Whatever the case where there is a market rate, in non-market cases where the claimant claims on the basis of profits lost, the general British Westinghouse rule applies and any gains resulting are in account. A salutary reminder from Longmore LJ at [29]: “compensation for actual loss is the underlying principle and … in this connection, it is the available market rule that is a gloss on that underlying principle.” Verb sap.

Happy Christmas to all.

AT

Anti-suit injunctions (or rather anti-enforcement injunctions) again

An international high-net-worth employment case decided last week, Ecobank Transnational Inc v Tanoh [2015] EWCA Civ 1309 (accessible on the excellent BAILII website), has a good deal of meat for international transaction lawyers too. The CEO of a Togolese bank had a contract of employment governed by English law and with a provision for arbitration of differences in London under the UNCITRAL Rules. In early 2014, following a textbook exercise in corporate character assassination, he was fired. He immediately sued in Togo for wrongful dismissal, and shortly afterwards in the Ivory Coast for defamation, recovering a cool $11 million-odd in the former, and in the latter about $15 million. Both courts held that under their respective laws the arbitration provision could not deprive them of jurisdiction. The employer claimed arbitration, and in April 2015 sought an anti-enforcement injunction in respect of the Togolese and Ivorian proceedings (i.e. an anti-suit injunction for the time after judgment has been obtained). The CA held an anti-enforcement injunction available on principle, but upheld its refusal on the grounds of delay.

Essentially this judgment makes clear a number of points of very general application. First, s.32 of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982, dealing with the question of the recognition in England of foreign proceedings brought in breach of jurisdiction or arbitration agreements, is likely to precluded recognition of the relevant proceedings. Despite the exception to non-recognition where the jurisdiction / arbitration agreement is “illegal, void or unenforceable or was incapable of being performed”, it is irrelevant that an arbitration agreement is ineffective under the law of the place where the proceedings are brought or the law of the place where the contract was made. What matters is its enforceability under English law. Secondly, if people agree under a contract governed by English law to arbitrate disputes, the English courts will have little compunction where appropriate in granting anti-suit or anti-enforcement relief. Such relief is not as such a breach of the rules of comity: as Christopher Clarke LJ pertinently pointed out, the preservation of overseas judicial amour propre is not a particularly important aim these days. Thirdly, however, delay in seeking relief continues highly relevant, both on general equitable grounds and also because it is undesirable to render fruitless the expenditure of large amounts of curial time and litigants’ cash on ultimately unproductive proceedings abroad. In short, while anti-enforcement injunctions remain possible, in practice they are likely to be rare, as litigants will normally be expected to act earlier in the judicial process.

AT

Temporal scope of Hague Rules

Volcafe v CSAV [2015] EWHC 516 (Comm); [2015] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 639.

Loading of a cargo of coffee inland by the carrier into its containers has been held to fall within the temporal scope of the Hague Rules. This may seem somewhat surprising in the light of Article 1 (e) of the Rules which provides: “(e) “Carriage of goods” covers the period from the time when the goods are loaded on to the time they are discharged from the ship.” However, David Donaldson QC in the London Mercantile Court has held that the initial loading into the carrier’s containers and the subsequent loading of the container onto the vessel were to be regarded as part of a single loading process. Even if this were not the case, the parties had exercised their freedom to agree what constituted loading under art 1. (e) which they had done by providing that the carrier would stuff the cargo into its own containers.

Simon Baughen

Free in/ Free out clauses and cargo claims

SDTM-CI v Continental Lines N.V. [2015] EWHC 1747 (Comm)

Cargo claims were brought against the shipowner under two bills of lading incorporating the terms of a charterparty which contained a clause providing “Cargo shall be loaded, spout trimmed and/or stowed at the expenses and risk of Shippers/Charterers … Cargo shall be discharged at the expenses and risk of Receivers/Charterers at the average rate of 1,500 metric tons per weather working day ……Stowage shall be under Master’s direction and responsibility…” Flaux J has held that the incorporated provision has the effect of transferring responsibility for loading and discharging away from the shipowner. To the extent that it was established that the cargo was damaged by bad loading and/or discharge, as opposed to bad stowage, the cargo interests could not recover such damages from the shipowner.

Simon Baughen

Receivables Financing

LLM Credit and security students might care to note s.1 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015. This gives the right to pass regulations disallowing anti-assignment clauses where the interests of receivables financiers are concerned. This effectively reversing Helstan v Herts CC [1978] 3 All ER 262.

Andrew Tettenborn

See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/26/contents/enacted/data.htm