The English High Court recently confirmed when it will order the sale of liened cargo which is the subject of arbitration proceedings. This decision may be of interest to shipowners that are faced with a situation in which cargo belonging to a charterer remains on board a vessel for a long period without the owners receiving hire, while still incurring operating costs.
A recent Court of Appeal decision overturned the High Court judgment against the time charterers of a ship, reinstating the arbitration award in their favour. The decision has added another reason for delaying a final assessment of the loss of profit on a repudiated long-term charter by waiting to see whether the owners will sell the vessel.
The Supreme Court recently handed down its judgment in New Flamenco (Globalia Business Travel SAU of Spain v Fulton Shipping Inc). In this long-awaited decision, the court considered whether a benefit obtained by the owners relating to the sale of the vessel following the charterers' repudiatory breach of a charter should be taken into account in assessing the damages that the owners were entitled to recover.
A recent Commercial Court decision held that a charterer is 100% responsible under the Inter-Club Agreement for damage to cargo arising from an order to the vessel to delay discharge until the receivers are able to pay for the cargo. Given that it is common for shipments to be delayed, more disputes relating to deliberately delaying discharge can be expected in the future.
The Supreme Court recently handed down a judgment addressing three issues of importance to shipowners, charterers and insurers alike, defining the parameters of the safe port undertakings, the rights of subrogation of insurers where vessels are operated under bareboat charter and the right of charterers to limit their liability under the Convention on the Limitation of Liability of Shipowners.
In a recent case, the Court of Appeal decided unequivocally that missing a single instalment of hire under a time charter is not a breach of condition. In other words, there is no right to terminate for one missed instalment and claim damages for loss of bargain – usually the difference between the charter and market rate for the remainder of the charter period. The court also set out useful guidance on what constitutes 'renunciation' (anticipatory repudiatory breach) of a time charter.
Two recent London decisions involving shipping companies have highlighted problems that can be encountered when starting an arbitration. The first decision concerned an issue with identifying whether a non-signing counterparty is bound by the agreement containing the arbitration clause. The second decision concerned the question of which parties are authorised to accept service of arbitration notices.
A recent Court of Appeal decision acknowledges the difficulties of laying down general principles of law in connection with an innocent party's obligation to mitigate its loss following a repudiatory breach of contract. The case arose in the context of assessing damages for early redelivery where there was no available market at the time of the breach against which to measure the loss.
The Supreme Court has handed down judgment in the long-running OW Bunkers case. The decision is unlikely to be welcomed by owners, which now face the prospect of having to pay twice for bunkers: once to their immediate supplier, which may be insolvent, and again to the physical supplier of the bunkers.
A recent arbitration decision raises a number of interesting points in connection with lay-up agreements and how much can be claimed for continuing to provide services after the original contract has been terminated. It will be of interest to parties that see their unpaid charges increasing, as well as to other involuntary bailees, such as vessel owners left holding cargo with no bills of lading binding them after their charterers have ceased operations.
Unlike many civil law countries, there is no implied application of the doctrine of force majeure under English law. Rather, the treatment of an event of force majeure comes from the contract. It is usual for English courts to apply contracts strictly, according to their wording and respecting the parties' freedom to contract on terms they see fit.
In a potentially problematic decision, the Court of Appeal recently upheld a High Court judgment that a contract to supply bunkers on credit terms, with a retention of title clause in favour of the sellers until full payment but with permission to consume the bunkers (or some of them) before payment was due, was not a contract for the sale of goods under the Sale of Goods Act.
In a dry bulk market where a charterer is not paying freight or hire, its counterparty is often left to consider whether it can lien the cargo on board the chartered vessel to obtain payment. When it comes to liening cargo under a Congenbill, English law will look first to the head voyage charterparty as the source of relevant terms to be incorporated into the Congenbill, unless another charter is expressly identified. This can lead to a less-than-obvious outcome.
Owners continue to face uncertainty when charterers fail to pay hire under a time charterparty, particularly in respect of when they can withdraw the vessel or terminate and claim damages for future loss of hire. However, these uncertainties can be managed by including appropriate terms in the charterparty and by a careful and well-advised approach when charterers do fail to pay.
A shipowner's bid to avoid the risk of paying twice for bunkers supplied has been thwarted by a recent High Court decision, which held that a contract for the supply of bunkers is not a sale contract falling within the Sale of Goods Act 1979. The decision is important since, as the court recognised, the contract terms in this case are "typical of hundreds or even thousands of such transactions carried out every year".
If a time charterer redelivers a vessel before the end of the agreed charter period, the owner is faced with the choice of either accepting redelivery and claiming damages or maintaining the charterparty and continuing to claim hire. This decision has both commercial and legal implications. The owner's dilemma remains the same under a bareboat charterparty as under a time charterparty.
In a recent Court of Appeal decision a reference in a bill of lading to an arbitration clause in the underlying voyage charterparty was understood to incorporate the dispute resolution clause in the charterparty which provided for high court jurisdiction. The decision demonstrates that all parties to bill of lading contracts must be conscious of the fact that the words printed on the bill may not provide the whole story.
In a volatile market, many owners face the difficult challenge of having a vessel redelivered early under a profitable charter. Early redelivery may arise where a charterer is no longer willing or able to perform the charter or where, faced with non-payment of hire, the owner decides that it has no choice but to withdraw the vessel and terminate the charter.
There has been uncertainty in terms of the interpretation of Clause 13 of the Norwegian Saleform and, in particular, as to the extent of amounts recoverable where a buyer has failed to pay the deposit in accordance with Clause 2. In Griffon Shipping LLC v Firodi Shipping Ltd the Court of Appeal provided guidance on this point, holding that Clause 13 does not exclude a seller's right to claim the deposit as a debt.
The Commercial Court has handed down its judgment in Ocean Victory. The case concerned a safe port warranty and total loss, but it also addressed whether the insurer – as the assignee of the co-assured demise charterer – was entitled to claim indemnity from time charterers for the demise charterer's liability towards the co-assured head owners in respect of their breach of the safe port warranty.