Repudiated voyage charters and recoverable damages.

The prima facie measure of damages for repudiation of a voyage charter by charterers is the profit which would have been made by the shipowner on performance of that charter, less any benefit arising from mitigation which needs to be taken into account, such as what the ship earned during the period which would have been occupied in performing the voyage (Smith v M’Guire (1858) 3 H & N 554). However, the shipowner may suffer loss other than loss of profit and this may also be recovered, subject to the rules on remoteness. An example of such a different kind of loss arises when a vessel is redelivered to an owner in the wrong location or when a substitute fixture is completed at a discharge port which is not (or which is some distance from) the discharge port under the contract voyage.

This was the case in The MTM Hong Kong [2016] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 197. After the repudiation the vessel had proceeded on her ballast voyage to South America where she had been due to load under the terminated charter. On arrival there was an unexpected delay of nearly three weeks in fixing a substitute charter. The substitute fixture completed in Rotterdam on 12 April 2011. Had the original charter had been performed, the voyage would have completed on 17 March 2011 and the vessel would then have carried a cargo from the Baltic to the US, followed by a further cargo from the US to Europe. The owners were awarded the profit which the vessel would have earned on the contract voyage and the next two voyages less the profit actually earned on the substitute charter. Males J held that the arbitrators had been correct in awarding this additional head of loss.

Remoteness restated

In an otherwise rather boring solicitors’ negligence case, the CA have included a useful nugget. All three of their Lordships accepted that where a person such as a professional can be liable either in contract or in tort — in other words, where there is concurrent liability — the relevant test for remoteness of damage is that in contract, namely the rule in Hadley v Baxendale. And quite right too.

See Wellesley Partners LLP v Withers LLP [2015] EWCA Civ 1146, November 11, 2015.