London Arbitration 2/23 involved a claim for breach of the safe port warranty in an amended NYPE 1981 form, time charter trip to China. The vessel grounded while under pilotage in the port of Chaozhou, proceeding to her discharge berth, and suffered damage to her port side hull structure, resulting in water ingress. The owners claimed that, in breach of the charterparty, the port was unsafe and claimed the cost of repairs and associated damages in an amount of US$1,158,559.59 plus interest and costs.
The parties accepted that the vessel grounded outside the channel in charted shoal water and that the pilot would have known of the location of the charted shoal water. At the time of leaving the load port, the vessel did not have adequate charts onboard to create a proper passage plan for the discharge port. The tribunal found that the plan must have been defective as it could not have been based on the appropriate channel data at the time the vessel departed the loading port.
The master should have made efforts to obtain the appropriate harbour chart, Chinese MSA Chart 81102. It was ordinary good practice to navigate on the largest scale chart available. The pilot could have taken a copy onboard or a photograph of the chart could have been emailed to the vessel. The tribunal found that the master was negligent in failing to obtain a copy of the chart. The master was therefore not aware that the vessel was standing into danger during her final approach to, and manoeuvres within, Chaozhou harbour and, consequently, failed to query the pilot’s actions or attempt any direct action to prevent the vessel grounding. In failing to effectively monitor the pilot’s conduct of the vessel the master was negligent.
The tribunal concluded that the pilot was negligent in failing to manoeuvre the vessel such that she remained in the deep-water channel at all times. The tribunal found that the cause of the grounding was the negligent navigation of the vessel during her inbound passage to her discharge berth. However, the deep-water channel was safe for the vessel at the material time. The limits of the channel were marked on appropriate navigational charts and were known to the pilot.
The test for competence was whether the pilot was affected by a disabling lack of skill or knowledge, deriving from inherent lack of ability, lack of adequate training, lack of particular knowledge, or a disinclination to perform the job properly: The Eurasian Dream  1 Lloyd’s Rep 719 per Creswell J. The tribunal found the pilot to have been negligent in misjudging the turn into the port and failing to take appropriate action to correct his error. It was not persuaded that there was any evidence that he was affected by any of the deficiencies in the test above. It found him to be competent. A one-off mistake such as this by a competent pilot was not a defect in the set-up of the port: The grounding did not result from the vessel being exposed to dangers that could not be avoided by good navigation and seamanship. The vessel could and should have been manoeuvred within the deep-water channel but was not. Nor was the grounding the result of an abnormal occurrence,
The tribunal also found that the vessel was unseaworthy at the beginning of her voyage because she lacked the appropriate chart to prepare a berth-to-berth passage plan that was compliant with IMO Resolution A893(21). The defect was capable of being rectified by the master obtaining the required harbour chart before the vessel commenced her inbound passage to Chaozhou. However, the master made no effort to obtain the required chart and commenced the inbound passage without any knowledge of the limits of the deep-water channel.
There was no evidence that the owners exercised due diligence to ensure that the vessel had a compliant passage plan before she departed for Chaozhou. However, the grounding was caused by the vessel’s negligent navigation, specifically the pilot’s failure to ensure that the vessel turned at the required rate to remain in the deep-water channel.
The owners’ claim for loss and damage suffered as a result of the grounding failed.