Unmanned ships are on the horizon and the Norwegian maritime sector is uniquely positioned to take a leading role internationally in the development and commercialisation of this technology. Autonomous shipping may be Norway's maritime equivalent of Project Apollo, but is the legal framework keeping pace?
A recent High Court decision will provide comfort for vessel owners and serve as a reminder to charterers of the importance of documentary obligations within a bareboat charter. The court held that where a vessel is on bareboat charter, the obligation on charterers to keep the vessel with unexpired class certificates at all times is an absolute obligation and a condition of the contract.
The 2019 version of the Nordic Marine Insurance Plan 2013 recently entered into force. Among other things, the revisions introduce an arbitration clause as an option for insurances with Nordic claims leaders. Making arbitration the default position when there is a non-Nordic claims leader aims to align the plan with market practice. However, the change has also been brought about by the looming consequences of Brexit.
In charterparties where no expected time of arrival or readiness to load at the loading port is stated, the question will be whether an equivalent can be identified which can be used as the basis for an absolute obligation requiring the owners to proceed to the loading port by a particular time. The Court of Appeal recently held that the itinerary for an intermediate voyage was such an equivalent.
In a recent judgment in the Full City limitation fund proceedings, the Supreme Court clarified how a global limitation fund established pursuant to the Norwegian Maritime Code should be distributed. The court held that the interest component in the limitation fund should be distributed only on the claims for interest and not on the other claims filed in the fund because vessel owners' limitation of liability should remain the same regardless of whether a limitation fund is established.
A 2017 Commercial Court judgment clarifies the concept of barratry and confirms that there is no qualification to fire when seeking to rely on the fire defence under the Hague or Hague-Visby Rules (assuming that the vessel is seaworthy and that the fire was not caused by the actual fault or privity of the owner). It also confirms that, absent fire, an owner cannot escape liability for deliberate wrongful acts of the crew under the Hague or Hague-Visby Rules even if there is no actual fault or privity on its part.
The High Court recently considered the wording "exposure to sanctions" and ruled that the underwriters of a marine insurance policy could not rely on that wording to avoid a claim on the basis of a "risk of exposure" to the US-Iran sanctions. Rather, for underwriters to do so, there would need to be an actual prohibition on paying the claim in question. This latest judgment deals with a number of key points for drafting effective sanctions exclusion clauses in commercial maritime agreements.
A recent Court of Appeal decision concerned a claim by charterers against disponent owners in respect of contaminated fish oil in bulk carried on board a tanker. The owners accepted liability for the damaged cargo, but argued that they were entitled to limit their liability under Article IV(5) of the Hague Rules. However, the court confirmed that Article IV(5) does not apply to bulk and liquid cargoes; therefore, a carrier cannot limit liability for such cargoes under the Hague Rules.
In a recent case concerning the enumeration of units for the limitation of containerised cargo, the Court of Appeal was asked to determine whether the Hague-Visby Rules are compulsorily applicable if a bill of lading is not issued, what constitutes a 'unit' under the rules and what enumeration of cargo is required under Article IV.5(c) of the rules. The claim arose following damage to a cargo of frozen bluefin tuna packed into three refrigerated containers, which had occurred during carriage from Cartagena to Japan.
In a landmark decision the Supreme Court has set aside a Court of Appeal decision which concluded that the Norwegian courts have jurisdiction under the Lugano Convention in a direct action concerning a ship collision in the Singapore Strait. The decision provides welcome clarification to liability insurers across Europe, as it sets out that the Lugano Convention is a self-contained and exclusive code governing matters relating to insurance.
The Aconcagua Bay was voyage chartered for the carriage of cargo from the US Gulf. While the vessel was loading, a bridge and lock were damaged and the vessel could not leave the berth for 14 days. The owners claimed damages for detention from the charterers for the period of delay. The main issue was whether a warranty in a voyage charter that the berth is 'always accessible' means that the vessel can always enter and leave the berth.
In 2014 the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Surveillance Authority commenced an audit of the Norwegian International Ship Register. Subsequently, the EFTA Surveillance Authority opened a case against Norway for a possible breach of the European Economic Area Agreement. The case concerned a geographical trade limitation applicable to ships flying the flag of the Norwegian International Ship Register.
The Court of Appeal recently provided important clarification in relation to the apportionment of liability for cargo claims as between shipowners and charterers under the Inter-club Agreement. The issue before the Court of Appeal was whether the word 'act' in the phrase 'act or neglect' in Clause 8(d) of the Inter-club Agreement means a culpable act in the sense of fault or whether it means any act, culpable or not.
A recent Agder Court of Appeal decision regarding remuneration for towage of the vessel Kvitnos underscores that where commercial terms have been discussed, a party wishing to claim a salvage award should expressly reserve its rights to do so. The case also illustrates that oral agreements may give rise to disputes when parties have divergent impressions of what has been agreed, especially in distressed situations where time is of the essence and information is scarce.
In Songa Winds, the London High Court found that letters of indemnity requesting delivery without the production of bills of lading to an intermediate trader of cargo are triggered even if delivery is to the trader's buyer. The use of letters of indemnity to allow the delivery of cargo to a named party without the production of a bill of lading is relatively common, but infrequently called upon.
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.
In some transactions, a non-Norwegian company may wish to register its ship with the Norwegian International Ship Register. This can be done only if the ship is managed by a shipping company that has its head office in Norway. This requirement has a bearing on the contractual structures and financing schemes that can be put in place and also raises issues concerning enforcement.
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.