Unsafe ports and negligent pilots.

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 [2002] 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.

Safe Port Warranty in Charterparties- London Arbitration 2/23

The chartered vessel (a gearless Panamax bulk carrier) ran aground while entering the port of Chaozhou under pilotage. As a result, she suffered damage to hull structure. The owners claimed the cost of repairs and associated damages in the amount of US$ 1,158.559.59 plus interest and costs on the premise that charterer directed the vessel to an unsafe port in breach of a safe port warranty in the charterparty.

The charterers defended the claim arguing that the vessel was unseaworthy as she lacked the proper charts which prevented the master from preparing an effective berth-to-berth passage plan (The CMA CGM Libra [2021] UKSC 51). On that basis, the charterers argued that unseaworthiness was the effective cause of the loss and as the Hague-Visby Rules were incorporated into the charterparty by a Paramount Clause, they were able to rely on breach of Article III Rule (1) of the Rules as a defence of circuity of action to the owners’ claim for breach of the unsafe port warranty, according to the principle in Post Office v. Hampshire [1980] QB 124.

Was the port unsafe?

There is authority pointing to the fact that a systematic error in the infrastructure of a port could potentially make that port unsafe (The Ocean Victory [2017] UKSC 35)- the pilots employed by a port can certainly be considered part of that port’s infrastructure. It was in essence the submission of the owners that the pilot’s failure to deploy the stern tug in “indirect” mode to bring the stern of the Vessel around to port and her head around to starboard meant that he was incompetent. (according to the owners, this failure demonstrated a disabling lack of skill or knowledge amounting to incompetence in line with the test laid down in The Eurasian Dream [2002] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 719). The tribunal disagreed. After a technical evaluation assisted by expert mariners, it was held that the main fault of the pilot in this case was failure to execute the manoeuvre required to enter into a port (that poses some navigational challenges) correctly. This was deemed to be an isolated error on his part. The pilot worked at Chaozhou for 5 years before this incident, continued working as a pilot there for some five years afterwards, and had not been involved in any other incidents. He had demonstrated the ability to control the Vessel and the tugs in other respects during this incident.

It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a pilot employed by a harbour authority could be regarded as incompetent but the burden that the owners need to discharge in such a case is a considerable one and unless it can be demonstrated that the pilot in question is recently appointed and no adequate training opportunities are offered to him/her by the harbour authority to familiarise himself/herself with particular navigational challenges the relevant port poses, it is likely that any navigational error of the pilot will be judged as one off as was the case here.

Was the vessel unseaworthy?

The finding on the safety of the port was adequate to dispose the owners’ claim but the tribunal also made the following observations regarding the vessel’s seaworthiness. It was found that the vessel did not have the up-to-date Chinese paper chart on board showing the limits of the dredged deepwater channel. On that basis it was held that the passage plan must have been defective as it could not have been based on appropriate channel data at the time the vessel departed the loading port. The tribunal also found that as a result the Master and deck team failed to alert the pilot to his errors and failed to attempt any action to avoid the grounding. Therefore, it was evident that the vessel was unseaworthy. However, it was held that the unseaworthiness was not an effective cause of the grounding. We can only assume that the tribunal after evaluating the expert evidence concluded that pilot’s negligence was the main effective cause of the grounding- put differently but for the pilot’s negligence the vessel could have still entered the port in a safe manner despite the fact that the passage plan, based on incomplete data, was defective. This is obviously a factual finding, and it is hard for us to comment on without having access to the expert evidence that the tribunal had the chance to see.

That said it would have been very interesting to see how the tribunal would have reacted to the point raised by the charterers: i.e. if the port had been deemed unsafe and unseaworthiness was found to be an effective cause of the loss. In that case, would the charterer be able to avoid liability without having the need to demonstrate that the Vessel’s unseaworthiness was a novus actus interveniens which severed the chain of causation between the unsafety of the port and the grounding? Possibly yes, but that is a moot point which needs to be decided on another day.

EU Parliament and Council reach agreement on FuelEU Maritime Regulation

Early on the morning of 23 March the European Parliament and the Council agreed on FuelEU Maritime – a new EU regulation ensuring that the greenhouse gas intensity of fuels used by the shipping sector will gradually decrease over time, by 2% in 2025 to as much as 80% by 2050. This measure increases the maritime transport sector’s contribution to reaching the EU-wide target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030.

FuelEU Maritime will set maximum limits on the yearly greenhouse gas intensity of the energy used by a ship, with targets will becoming increasingly ambitious over time to stimulate and reflect the expected developments in technology and the increased production of renewable and low-carbon fuels. The targets cover not only CO2, but also methane and nitrous oxide emissions over the full lifecycle of the fuels.

Additionally there is an additional zero-emission requirement at berth, mandating the use of on-shore power supply (OPS) or alternative zero-emission technologies in ports by passenger ships and containerships, with a view to mitigating air pollution emissions in ports.

The Regulation takes a goal-based and technology-neutral approach, allowing for innovation and the development of new fuel technologies to meet future needs, and offering operators the freedom to decide which to use based on ship-specific or operation-specific profiles. The Regulation also provides for a voluntary pooling mechanism under which ships will be allowed to pool their compliance balance with one or more other ships, thereby making it the pool as a whole that has to meet the greenhouse gas intensity limits on average.

The political agreement must now be formally adopted, and once this is completed by the European Parliament and the Council, the new rules will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union and enter into force 20 days after publication.

Anti-assignment clauses and subrogation under foreign law

Dassault Aviation SA v Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co Ltd [2022] EWHC 3287 (Comm) involved the effect of an anti-assignment clause in a contract on statutory rights of subrogation under an insurance policy subject to Japanese law taken out by one of the parties. Mitsui Bussan Aerospace Co Ltd (“MBA”) and Dassault entered into a sale contract governed by English law under which Dassault would manufacture and deliver to MBA two aircraft and certain related supplies and services for supply to the Japanese Coast Guard. Article 15 of the Sale Contract, titled “Assignment-Transfer”, provided:

“Except for the Warranties defined in Exhibit 4 that shall be transferable to Customer, this Contract shall not be assigned or transferred in whole or in part by any Party to any third party, for any reason whatsoever, without the prior written consent of the other Party and any such assignment, transfer or attempt to assign or transfer any interest or right hereunder shall be null and void without the prior written consent of the other Party.

Notwithstanding the above and subject to a Seller’s prior notice to Buyer, Seller shall have the right to enter into subcontracting arrangements with any third party, for the purpose of the performance of this Contract”

The Sale Contract contained an arbitration agreement providing for arbitration under the ICC rules and for the seat of arbitration to be London.

MBA entered into a contract of insurance with MSI, governed by Japanese law, without seeking Dassault’s consent. The Policy covered the risk of MBA being held liable to the Japanese Coast Guard for late delivery under the Sale Contract. In fact, delivery was delayed and the Japanese Coast Guard claimed liquidated damages for late delivery. MBA claimed that sum from MSI (less a deductible) under the Policy, and MSI accepted that claim and paid MBA in turn.

Article 25 of the Japanese Insurance Law provides:

“An insurer, when the insurer has made an insurance proceeds payment, shall, by operation of law, be subrogated with regard to any claim acquired by the insured due to the occurrence of any damages arising from an insured event (under a non-life insurance policy which covers claims arising due to default or any other reason, such claims shall be included; hereinafter referred to as the ‘insured’s claim’ in this Article), up to the smaller of the amounts listed below:

(i) the amount of the insurance proceeds payment made by the insurer; or

(ii) the amount of the insured’s claim (if the amount set forth in the preceding item falls short of the amount of damages to be compensated, the amount that remains after deducting the amount of the shortfall from the amount of the insured’s claim).”

Article 26 of the Japanese Insurance Law provides: “A contractual provision that is incompatible with the provisions of […] [Article 25] that is unfavourable to an insured shall be void.” However it permits of agreement that an insurer would not be subrogated, as not being “unfavourable to the insured”.

The mechanism of subrogation under Japanese Law is the transfer of rights: the insurer acquires the right to sue in its own name, including the right to initiate proceedings. This was reinforced by Article 35 (1) of the Policy which essentially reproduced Article 25 of the Japanese Insurance Law and provide:

“In the event that the Insured acquires a right to claim for damages or other claim […] as a result of the occurrence of Losses, such claims shall be transferred to [MSI] when [MSI] pays the insurance benefits for said Losses..”

30 April 2021, MSI submitted a request for arbitration under the arbitration agreement in the Sale Contract against Dassault. The Tribunal considered the jurisdictional issue as a preliminary issue. In its Partial Award on jurisdiction by a majority decision, the Tribunal dismissed Dassault’s jurisdictional objection. The Tribunal held that: (i) Article 15 of the Sale Contract did not apply to involuntary assignments and/or assignments by operation of law; (ii) as a matter of Japanese law, the transfer of rights from MBA to MSI occurred by operation to law pursuant to Article 25 of the Japanese Insurance Act. The majority found that, since the transfer occurred by operation of law, Article 15 did not apply to it

On appeal under s.67 of the Arbitration Act 1996 Cockerill J that the effect of Article 15 was that the subrogation to MSI was of no effect and the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear its claim against Dassault. So far as the authorities went, there was a presumption that the court should not be prevented from giving effect to such a clause when the transfer is one which is voluntary (in the sense of consented to). The authorities did not justify a conclusion that prohibitions on assignment should not be taken to carve out transfers which occur “by operation of law” in a broad sense. The relevant test was whether the transfer was voluntary in that it was in the power of MBA to prevent the transfer. The answer was that it was. MBA might have chosen not to insure or might have chosen a policy governed by another system of law. It might have excluded the operation of Article 25 instead positively reinforcing it with Article 35 of the Policy. It might have chosen not to make a claim. It was therefore in the power of MBA to comply with the provision. It acted voluntarily or consented to take a step which on a certain contingency would put it in breach of that provision.

MSI pointed out that it was difficult to say that subrogation under English law was acceptable, whereas the subrogation equivalent of another legal system was not. Dassault replied that an English law subrogation does not involve a transfer and there simply is a relevant difference for the purposes of a clause such as this. Secondly, the assumption that there is no problem with English law subrogation might not be a safe one.

This required a consideration of the nature of subrogation in English law. Would the third rule of English law subrogation, that an insurer can pursue a claim in the name of the insured, but not pursuant to a transfer of right, be affected by Article 15 or a clause like it?  Cockerill J was not prepared to decide that Dassault’s argument would probably gain traction based on a fairly slight and somewhat abstract argument and its case must therefore (for present purposes) stand or fall on the basis that English law subrogation would not fall foul of Article 15.

MSI argued that “a question of public policy arises… because the general view of English contractual law is that it’s sensible for parties to obtain insurance and they should not be penalised for doing so“. Cockerill J rejected this because one could not imply into the clause a blanket exception for insurance: it would be contrary to the express words of the contract and it would fail the business efficacy test.

The moral of this tale is that if your contract contains a ban on assignment, you need to take care with taking out insurance under a policy subject to a foreign law. If subrogation under that system of law operates by a direct transfer of rights to the insurer, it will be caught by the ban on assignment in your contract.

Implied term under time charter. Reinspection of holds following initial failure.

Pan Ocean Co Ltd v Daelim Corporation [2023] EWHC 391 (Comm) (24 February 2023)  DL LILAC, involved an appeal under section 69 of the Arbitration Act 1996 heard by Sir Ross Cranston acting as a High Court Judge. The issue of law was:  

“whether there was an implied term of the subject time charter having the effect that where the vessel was off hire under clause 69 after a failed holds inspection and the Master advised that hold cleaning had been completed and called for a reinspection, the charterer was obliged ‘to have the vessel re-inspected without delay’.”

The case involved a time charter trip in early 2017 on an amended NYPE 1993 form to carry a cargo of urea in bulk. Clause 69 was headed “BIMCO Hold Cleaning/Residue Disposal For Time Charter Parties” and provided:

“Vessel’s holds on delivery or on arrival 1st load port to be clean swept/washed down by fresh water and dried so as to receive Charterers intention cargoes in all respects free of salt, rust scale and previous cargo residue to the satisfaction of the independent surveyor.

If vessel fails to pass any holds inspection the vessel to be placed off-hire until the vessel passes the same inspection and any expense/time incurred thereby for Owners account.”

The charterers deducted US$110,765 in hire and US$16,308 in bunkers arising out of the failure of a cargo holds inspection at Jubail (the loading port).  The holds initially failed an inspection between 0700 and 1230 on 16 February 2017 due to the presence of rust, paint flakes and cargo residue. At 14.30 on 19 February 2017 the vessel was ordered off-berth. An hour later the master notified the agents that the vessel had been cleaned and requested a reinspection. At 22.18 the vessel shifted to the inner anchorage and rebirthed at 20.42 on 3 March 2017. At 0700 on 4 March 2017, the holds were reinspected at 11.00 the vessel passed the inspection

The owners contended that it was an implied term of the charter party that the charterers should carry out any reinspection with reasonable diligence and without any undue delay and the charterers were in breach of that implied term because the reinspection took so long to arrange. They argued further that the charterers were not entitled to treat the vessel as off-hire after 1530 on 19 February because any loss of time after then was caused by the charterers’ breach of their obligation to arrange a reinspection with diligence. The owners also referred in their closing submissions to an arbitration report in Lloyd’s Maritime Law Newsletter (“LMLN”) 17/10 “where the clause used was virtually identical to that adopted in the instant  case.

Sir Ross Cranston concluded that the Award could be read in such a way that the Tribunal did in fact apply the correct legal test for implied terms notwithstanding the reference to “reasonable” in paragraph 25 of the Award. In the opening words of paragraph 25 the Tribunal indicated that it was adopting the owners implied term argument, in which their closing submissions had referred to the “need” for an implied term, and that commercially any other interpretation was not sensible – a reference to the necessity and obviousness benchmarks in Lord Neuberger’s judgment in Marks & Spencer plc v BNP Paribas Securities Services Trust Co (Jersey) Ltd [2016] AC 742.

Any implied term had to oblige both parties to take reasonable steps to cooperate to organise a reinspection without undue delay. That was all that would be required under the test of necessity for an implied term to protect both parties from delay of the other side and would be consistent with clause 69. The Tribunal was wrong in law to find that the vessel was immediately back on hire once the Master had notified the agents on 19 February 2017 that the holds were ready for reinspection. That was inconsistent with clause 69 of the charterparty, and did not accord with the implied term as found by the Tribunal.

What the Tribunal needed to do was to decide by when the reinspection should have been undertaken had there been compliance with the implied obligation to exercise reasonable diligence to have the vessel reinspected without undue delay. The case wasremitted to the arbitrators todecide what could and should have been done by the parties regarding reinspection, whether either party was in breach in this regard, the relevant timescales (e.g., the time within which the reinspection could have been arranged and completed had there been no breach of the implied obligation), and the financial consequences of any breach.

Late redelivery under time charter. Recovering more than allowed under The Achilleas.

In The Achilleas, [2008] UKHL 48, the House of Lords set out a bespoke rule as to what damages could be recovered by a shipowner in respect of the time charterer’s breach in redelivering the vessel late – market value at the time of breach less time charter hire rate for the period from when the vessel should have been redelivered, up to the time of actual redelivery. However, clauses may be inserted in time charters to allow for recovery of additional damages in the event of such a breach. London Arbitration 1/23 involves just such a clause.

The case involved a head time charter and a sub time charter on similar terms with redelivery to be on or before 1 July 2021 in both cases.  Charterers were to give various etas as to the vessel’s redelivery date and port, and clause 119 provided that if an order for a voyage ending after the maximum period were given the owner should have the option

“(i) to refuse the order and require a substitute order allowing timely redelivery of the vessel,ꞏ or

(ii) to perform the order without prejudice to their right to claim damages, including consequential damages, for breach of charter in case of late redelivery of the vessel.

In any event, for the number of days by which the maximum period stipulated in this charter party is exceeded, the Charterers shall pay the prevailing market rate if this is higher than the hire rate agreed in this charter party.”

At the time of fixing the time charterers were aware of the importance of the redelivery date to the owners who were planning to drydock the vessel shortly afterwards as the vessel as due for her special class survey on 6 July, although the parties would also have known that there was some flexibility on dates because the owners would have been able to obtain a short extension of the validity of the class certificates.. Owners intended to obtain a short fixture to get the vessel near to the drydocking port to come into effect after the end of the two time charters on 1 July 2021.

Delays occurred at the discharge port and the follow on fixture owners negotiated on 25 June 2021 was cancelled on 6 July.  Discharge eventually completed on 14 July 2021 and the vessel then sailed to the drydocking shipyard arriving there on 22 July 2021. The owners claimed that the charterers were in breach of charter on the following grounds:

(a) the vessel was redelivered late;

(b) the charterers failed to comply with their undertakings in clause 119;

(c) the charterers breached an implied term that any notices of expected redelivery (i) would be given honestly and in good faith, and (ii) would be based on objectively reasonable grounds following proper inquiries made by the charterers.

Time admitted a breach in redelivering late, that their last orders were illegitimate, and their estimates in the voyage orders had not been reasonable estimates. The charterers admitted that the owners were entitled to damages for late redelivery calculated on the basis of the difference between the market and the charter rate of hire for the 12.508 day overrun period between when the vessel should have been delivered (midnight on 1 July) and when she was actually delivered (12.12 GMT on 14 July).

Owners, however, also claimed hire and bunkers that would have been earned under the cancelled repositioning fixture, for the period for the actual ballast voyage from the time charter discharge port to a place 10 hours from the drydock, being a mid-point between the two redelivery ports under the repositioning fixture.

The tribunal accepted owners’ additional claim. The clause was not limited to breach by way of illegitimate last orders but covered all three breaches claimed by owners. The additional claim fell within the term ‘consequential damages’ in cl.119 which was not limited to damages within the second limb of Hadley v Baxendale (1854) 9 Exch 341 and would include losses on a follow-on fixture. However, this’ construction would not allow recovery of actual losses in excess of market rates. The standard approach to damages for breach of charter applied.

If this construction of cl. 119 were wrong, and ‘consequential losses’ was, as charterers argued, limited to the second limb of Hadley v Baxendale, owners’ claim would still be recoverable on that basis.  

Owners’ alternative claim based on the alleged breach of the obligation to give redelivery notices, which had to be given in good faith and also to be reasonable, was rejected as the tribunal accepted that even if the charterers had given accurate notices the vessel would not have been redelivered earlier.

Changes to the latest version of AIEN’s Model Joint Operating Agreement

The Association of International Energy Negotiators (AIEN) have recently released their latest version of their standard form JOA (AIEN JOA 2023). As usual, it includes Guidance Notes that have been released at the same time.

Despite its international moniker, the AIEN JOA is heavily influenced by North American practice and is therefore not commonly found in the UK (the OEUK has an equivalent version) but it is the most often used model globally, and, while there is nothing overtly surprising in the 2023 version, recent geo-political events and significant updates in industry practice have resulted in changes which are at least worthy of a quick look:


GHG Emissions

The clauses which address the issue of GHG emissions are not detailed – they include a definition of greenhouse gases, oblige the operator to conduct operations in a manner which mitigates their emissions and to report on GHG emission data in line with internationally recognised guidelines – but their importance lies in the fact that they were included at all. The model form JOA is intended to act a foundation for negotiating the terms of a long term legal relationship, and to include clauses on GHG emissions illustrates that, at the very least, oil companies (IOC) can and should have a role in climate governance. Ultimately, their effectiveness will not simply depend on how many IOCs include them in their JOAs, but on how far the Operators and other Participants develop these terms into non-contractually based practices of good climate governance.

Human Rights

For the first time, the JOA contains provisions on Human Rights. They are few, and very general but the Drafting Committee felt their inclusion was important. Their definition of Human Rights comes from several sources: the UN Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the ILO Declaration and Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Part II).


Previous iterations of the AIEN JOA (2012 and 2002 being the most commonly active) did not contain anything on economic sanctions, but the current conflict in Ukraine and the Russian invasion last year has certainly brought the issue far enough into the foreground for it to warrant the drafting of several provisions:

  • Generally, it defines economic sanction laws as being those of the state of their – and their parent companies’ – place of business. There is also the option of adding broader wording that recognises sanction laws of large and influential bodies (namely, the UN and the EU, as well as the laws of the United States and the United Kingdom).
  • There is an express obligation for Operators to establish and implement policies which ensure compliance with relevant economic sanction laws. There is also the optional wording which obligates Operators to impose similar requirements on any of its contracts. Additionally, there is express wording that exonerates parties from performing duties under the JOA if they violate economic sanction laws – this explicitly includes failure to pay joint account charges where such non-payment is a requirement under sanction law (ordinarily this would result in a default). The Force Majeure provision has also been amended to provide relief from the requirement to meet payment obligations if they violate sanction law.
  • The JOA also takes into consideration how frequently mergers and changes to company control take place within the industry, doing so on two levels: first, it prohibits M&A transactions which fall foul of relevant sanction laws; second, parties which do violate sanctions as a result of a change of control are to be treated as defaulting parties until the violation has been corrected.
  • Finally, there is optional wording which expands the JOA’s withdrawal provisions to permit parties to withdraw when one of the other participants has violated sanction laws. In doing so, their rights would not be assigned to the sanctioned party.



Decommissioning provisions have been significantly broadened, particularly Exhibit E (which is entirely optional): legacy wells are now explicitly considered, specifically within the context of decommissioning costs (legacy wells are wells in production prior to the JOA coming into effect – possibly historically abandoned at some point – and which continue to produce for the joint venture). Parties to the JOA also have more powers to ensure that the venture’s decommission obligations are satisfied.


The withering interest provisions have survived the new iteration of the JOA, but are now optional. Additionally, defaulting parties are now obliged to hold their interest in trust for the non-defaulting parties.

Exclusive Operations

The new JOA now includes a risk-based premium, which is payable by non-consenting parties of exclusive operations who decide to exercise their ability to reinstate their previously relinquished rights to the operation – this was identified as a gap by the Drafting Committee. An additional alternative was also added which turns an exclusive operation into a joint operation if the total combined participating interest is equal to or greater than the passmark.

The New Warranty Regime Tested in A Common Law Court   

PT Adidaya Energy Mandiri v. MS First Capital Insurance Ltd [2022] SGHC(I) 14; [2022] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 381

Factual and Contractual Matrix

The assured operated an unmanned single point mooring buoy (SPM) at a gas field which was moored to seabed by nine set of chains at three locations on its skirt area. The insurance policy provided cover for physical damage to the SPM on total loss basis only with an insured value of US$ 4, 700,0000. The policy, inter alia, contained two warranties:

Clause 1- “The Insured Equipment is only to be operated by and under the supervision of suitably trained and authorised personnel…”

Clause 8- “Suitable precautions and preservation/maintenance measures to be adopted when storing, handling, transporting and operating Insured Equipment.

The policy was subject to English law as amended by the Insurance Act (IA) 2015. It also contained a clause to the effect that the assured should notify the insurer within 30 days of becoming aware of any incident giving rise to a claim which may be covered under the policy.   

Between 1 and 13 July 2018, several collisions between the SPM and a crude oil tanker (The Bratasena) occurred during loading operations leading to the flooding of the SPM’s compartments. Emergency repairs were carried out in August/September 2018 and further repairs were made in situ in December 2018. The SPM received further repairs in May/June and November 2019. The assured claimed that the SPM was a constructive total loss (CTL) by tendering a Notice of Abandonment (NoA) on 22 May 2019. The assured also claimed expenses incurred to prevent the SPM from becoming a total loss as sue and labouring expenses. The assured’s indemnity claim was rejected by the insurer on various grounds mainly due to breach of marine warranties and procedural issues. The assured’s claim for sue and labouring expenses was also rejected by the insurer. The assured brought the current proceedings against the insurer before the Singapore International Commercial Court as per jurisdiction agreement in the contract.

Breach of Warranty

Sir Jeremy Cooke IJ, was of the opinion that both of the warranties in the contract were breached. The assured was in breach of Clause 1 as no evidence was presented showing that the crew was adequately trained to operate the insured equipment. It was also held that there was a breach of cl. 8 as there was no static tow in place to ensure that The Bratasena did not surge into the SPM. Moreover, it was found that there was no 24/7 watchkeeping during loading operations which meant another failure in the provision of suitable precautions and preservation measures. It was also found that the crew’s failure to notify the assured of every contact with the SPM constituted a further breach as that prevented any corrective measure taken.

Having established that both cl 1 and 8 were breached, the trial judge held that the cover was suspended at the time of the loss by virtue of s. 10(2) of the IA 2015. It was also held that s. 11(3) of the IA 2015 could not assist the assured here as there was no prospect of the assured showing that non-compliance with the warranties did not increase the risk of the loss which actually occurred in the circumstances which it did occur.

Other Defences Raised by the Insurer

The clause requiring the assured to notify the insurer within 30 days of becoming aware of any incident giving rise to a claim which may be covered under the policy was held to be a condition precedent to the liability of the insurer. It was held that this clause was breached (which barred recovery) as the assured even though by 17 July 2018 was aware that there had been several collisions between the SPM and The Bratasena, gave no notification to the insurer until 5 September 2018.    

Agreeing with the contention of the insurer, the Court also found that the SPM was not a constructive total loss as the repair costs (estimated to be around US$ 2 million by the insurer’s expert and US$ 3.2 million by the assured’s expert) did not exceed the insured value under s. 60(2)(ii) of the Marine Insurance Act (MIA) 1906. It was also held that (even if the repair costs had exceeded the insured value of the SPM), the assured could not treat the loss as constructive total loss as it failed to tender NoA within a reasonable time (as required by s. 62(1)(3) of the MIA 1906). The trial judge stressed that NoA was not tendered until 22 May 2019 even though the temporary and permanent repairs required to preserve the vessel from being a total loss had been completed by mid-December 2018.  Sir Jeremy Cooke IJ was convinced that the assured had waived its right to abandon the SPM to the insurers as it sold the equipment in June 2019 for US$ 400,000 at an undervalued price on the premise that it was a liability, but it kept operating it following the collision and kept earning a revenue. All these inconsistent actions pointed to the Court that the assured was dealing with SPM for its own account throughout so its offer to cede its interest in the SMP to the insurer was taken to have been withdrawn.   

The assured’s claim for sue and labouring costs were mostly rejected. By virtue of s. 78(3) of the MIA 1906, to qualify as a sue and labour expense, it is necessary to show the assured that the expenses were incurred for the purpose of averting or minimising a loss to the insured property. This puts a serious limit on a policy like this one which provides cover on “total loss basis” only allowing the assured to claim costs that had been spent to prevent the insured property from an immediate risk of total loss as sue and labouring expenses. On that basis, the Court held that most of the expenses were not recoverable as sue and labouring expenses. More precisely:

  1. Replacement of the mooring hawser was not incurred to preserve the property from total loss;
  2. Inspection costs of the mooring chain, SPM riser and the pipeline end manifold, had no influence on the loss;
  3. Effecting permanent repairs (especially in 2019) did not qualify as there was no longer a risk of sinking.

The only expense recoverable as sue and labouring expense was the inspection costs and repairs to prevent further flooding immediately after the collisions in July 2018 (US$ 20,875 on the estimate of the insurer’s expert).


The Court’s findings on the CTL issue and sue and labour clause do not break any new ground. What we see here is a very good application of established legal principles to the facts of the case with the assistance of insurance experts.

However, given that this is the first case (known to the author) that gives judicial airing to the changes introduced on the traditional warranty regime by the IA 2015 (in addition to academic scrutiny carried out- see, for example, observations of the author in 3rd edition of Warranties in Marine Insurance (2017, Routledge), his contribution to Cambridge Law Journal [2016] “Risk Control Clauses in Insurance Law” pp, 109- 127, Professor Clarke’s observations published in The Insurance Act 2015: A New Regime for Commercial and Marine Insurance Law (Informa Law, 2017), pp. 54-59 comments of R. Merkin and Ö. Gűrses, “The Insurance Act 2015: Rebalancing the Interests of the Insurer and the Assured” (2015) 78 MLR 1004), it is worth commenting on that aspect of the case.

The case is a very good reminder that when dealing with a warranty that requires the assured to adopt safety standards and practices (such as cl 8 here),  when such standards are not maintained by the assured, it will be very difficult (if not impossible) to convince the Court that non-compliance with such warranty could not have increased the risk of loss which actually occurred in the circumstances in which it occurred (s. 11(3) of the IA 2015). From the way the arguments were presented to the judge, it is also evident that (as predicted by academics) the effect of s. 11(3) is to introduce a test of causation from the backdoor! Inevitably, the courts will be drawn into an enquiry as to whether the loss would have happened in the manner it did, had the safety standards been appropriately adopted.    

One should also bear in mind that the effect of s. 11(3) could be negated altogether (i.e., the assured could be prevented from arguing that the breach of warranty did not contribute to the occurrence of the loss so that it should not have any detrimental impact on coverage) if it is drafted in a way that serves the purpose of describing the limits of the cover as a whole. A warranty of that nature is excluded from the application of s. 11(3) on the premise that such a term will have a general limiting effect not linked to a specific risk (s. 11(1) stipulates: “This section applies to a term (express or implied) other than a term defining the risk as a whole,…”). Unfortunately, this matter was not deliberated by the trial judge in depth, but it could be plausibly argued that cl. 1 is such a term as it requires the insured equipment to be operated only by and under the supervision of suitably trained and authorised personnel. On that basis, it can be viewed as going to the definition of the insured risk rather than simply being a term designed to reduce the risk of a particular type of loss. If so, regardless of whether breach of cl. 1 has contributed to the loss, the risk is suspended the moment the insured equipment is operated by personnel who are not adequately trained until that situation is rectified (as long as, of course, the breach does have a lasting impact on the risk (s. 10(2) of the IA 2015). Lack of discussion on the nature of cl. 1 did not here have any impact on the outcome as the judge was convinced that non-compliance with the warranty did, in fact, increase the risk of loss which actually occurred in the manner in which it occurred but such an analysis would have helped us to see how judges actually deal with the issue of identifying whether a warranty is one that “describes the risk” (which is excluded from the application of s. 11(3) of the IA 2015) or is one which is designed to reduce the risk of “loss of a particular kind” or “loss at a particular location” or “loss at a particular time”.     

Caught up in the sanctions web? Not quite: a lucky escape.

The trouble with sanctions, especially with shipping, is that they can hit innocent third parties almost as hard as sanctionees themselves. Full marks, therefore, to Foxton J in Gravelor Shipping Ltd v GTLK Asia M5 [2023] EWHC 131 (Comm) for finding a way to rescue a shipowner caught in the cross-fire when its Russian financiers were fingered by the UK, the EU and the US.

Cypriot owners Gravelor had financed a couple of their small to medium bulkers by a bareboat arrangement with Russian lenders GTLK. These finance charters required hire payments into a Hong Kong account or any subsequently nominated account; they bound Gravelor to purchase the ships at expiry, but also by Clause 19 gave it an option to buy during the charter on three months’ notice on payment of all sums owing plus a “termination amount”. In the event of default, the lenders themselves had a right under Clause 18 to cancel the charter and insist on a sale to Gravelor against payment of all sums due, with a right to sell elsewhere if Gravelor would or could not come up with the money.

Following the 2022 Ukraine debacle, GTLK was sanctioned by the US, the UK and the EU. (It made a half-hearted and decidedly fishy bid to avoid the sanctions by a supposed sale of the business, but we can ignore this here.) At that point the vessels’ insurers and P&I club backed out, and it became illegal for Gravelor to credit the Hong Kong account stipulated in the charter or in any other way to make cash available to GTLK.

To protect its rights, Gravelor immediately gave notice exercising its option to purchase; it paid no more sums in Hong Kong but offered to pay to a blocked account elsewhere. GTLK declared Gravelor in default, gave notice cancelling the charter and rejected Gravelor’s notice exercising the option. It also put in a formal demand for payment under Clause 18; it did disingenuously offer to transfer the vessels against payment to a Russian Gazprom account nominated by it, no doubt hoping that if Gravelor could not do so, this might enable it to get the vessels into its own hands.

Gravelor now sought specific performance of the purchase agreement, arguing either that GTLK had exercised its option to sell under Clause 18 and thereby given them the right to buy, or (which was more advantageous to them) that they themselves had validly exercised their option under Clause 19. Accepting that the latter claim raised triable issues, in the present proceedings they concentrated on the former and sought an immediate interim order for transfer of the vessel.

Despite what might look like serious obstacles, they were largely successful. Foxton J accepted that there was no objection to such an interim order (rightly so: see The Messiniaki Tolmi (No 2) [1982] Q.B. 1248, esp at 1265-1269), if necessary on the basis of paying the higher of the sums due under Clause 18 or 19. By cancelling the charter under Clause 18 the owners had implicitly given notice to Gravelor requiring it to buy the vessels, thus creating a contractual obligation to transfer them, and their demanding payment of sums due had had the same effect.

GTLK then fell back on payment arguments. First, they said that once they had demanded payment into the Gazprom account, this was what was required under the charter, and if for what ever reason Gravelor could not make it (which they clearly could not), then any right of theirs to a transfer of the ship disappeared. Foxton J neatly disposed of this by pointing to clause 8.10, saying that if the owner was sanctioned and payment as stipulated could not be processed as a result, the parties would negotiate another means of payment. This, he said, applied to (in effect) any impossibility of payment, whether by Gravelor or to GTLK. Furthermore, the fact that payment might have to be in Euros rather than dollars did not affect the matter (a point previously decided in the slightly similar case of MUR Shipping BV v RTI Ltd [2022] EWHC 467 (Comm).

Secondly, GTLK then argued that if the only payment open to Gravelor was to a blocked account (which in EU law was the case), this could not amount to payment triggering a right to the vessel. Despite cases like The Brimnes [1973] 1 WLR 386 holding that payment was not payment unless immediately cashable by the payee, his Lordship rejected this too: payment meant payment that would be available to a payee in normal circumstances, even if this particular one had been sanctioned.

GTLK’s last line of defence was that specific performance was inappropriate and damages more appropriate, but this too was quickly disposed of. A distinct line of authority held that if damages might be difficult to extract from a defendant, that itself might make them an inadequate remedy: the judge applied that here, pointing out that quite apart from any credit risk encashing a money judgment against a sanctioned entity would be fraught with difficulty under the sanctions legislation.

Subject to a minor matter of no real importance here, he therefore said in effect that the order should go.

The news is therefore good for Gravelor. But there is an element of luck here. Had the provisions as to payment, or possibly the options to sell or purchase, been different, there might not have been the same result in the Commercial Court. There is something to be said for some general rules about the effects of sanctions on contracts, for example dealing with the effect of payment to a blocked account on contractual rights. But that is a medium to long-term idea.

Meanwhile, both vessels, presumably still manned by Gravelor crews, seem at the time of writing to have been on the high seas in the Baltic, a comfortable distance from the nearest Russian territory (at Kaliningrad). So not only does Gravelor now have an English judgment: it might even have its ships back.

Covid, off hire and construction of clause requiring owners’ consent to deductions from hire.

Fastfreight Pte Ltd v Bulk Trident Shipping Ltd (Re Arbitration Act 1996) [2023] EWHC 105 (Comm) (24 January 2023) is a case involving off- hire arising out of lengthy COVID related delays off a Chinese discharge port in 2021.

The “Anna Dorothea”, was chartered for a trip time charter for the carriage of a bulk cargo from East Coast, India to China in April 2021 on an amended NYPE 1993 form.  The vessel loaded a cargo of iron ore pellets at Visakhapatnam, India for carriage to China, and was ordered by the Charterers to sail to Lanqiao for discharge. It arrived off that port on 4 May 2021 but was not able to obtain a berth. In the event, the cargo was not discharged, and the vessel was not redelivered by the Charterers to the Owners until 28 August 2021.

Except for a period of five days between 22 and 26 May 2021, the Charterers did not pay any hire for the vessel between 4 May and 28 August 2021. They contended that the vessel went off-hire on 4 May 2021 and remained off-hire thereafter on the basis that three crew members had positive rapid lateral flow tests for Covid on 1 May 2021. Owners case was that it was impossible to arrange for PCR testing of those crewmembers, but if they had Covid-19 (lateral low tests not being wholly reliable) they would have recovered by no later than 13 May, as their temperature records for that day and subsequent days showed. The Charterers relied on clause 67 to justify their putting the vessel off hire.

Owners claimed that charterers could not deduct for off hire by virtue of line 146 appended to cl.11 which was headed “Hire Payment” and provided:

“(a) Payment

Payment of Hire shall be made so as to be received by the Owners or their designated payee in cash in to Owners’ bank account in Germany…

(line 146) Notwithstanding of the terms and provisions hereof no deductions from hire may be made for any reason under Clause 17 or otherwise (whether/ or alleged off-hire underperformance, overconsumption or any other cause whatsoever) without the express written agreement of Owners at Owners’ discretion. Charterers are entitled to deduct value of estimated Bunker on redelivery. Deduction from the hire are never allowed except for estimated bunker on redelivery…

Clause 17, headed “Off Hire” stated:

“In the event of loss of time from deficiency and/or default … of officers or crew … or by any other similar cause preventing the full working of the Vessel, the payment of hire and overtime, if any, shall cease for the time thereby lost. Should the Vessel deviate .. during a voyage, contrary to the orders or directions of the Charterers, … the hire is to be suspended from the time of her deviating .. until she is again in the same or equidistant position from the destination and the voyage resumed therefrom. …

If upon the voyage the speed be reduced by defect in, or breakdown of, any part of her hull, machinery or equipment, the time so lost, and the cost of any extra bunkers consumed in consequence thereof, and all extra provide directly related and actually paid expenses (always limited to one shift maximum) expenses [sic] … may be deducted from the hire only after having reached an agreement with the Owners on the figures (costs, times, bunkers). (emphasis added)”

The charterparty also additional clause 67 BIMCO Terms:

“Notwithstanding anything within this charter party, the riders, the recap, and/or the “BIMCO infections or contagious disease clause for time charter parties” and/or its equivalent, in the event any member of the crew or persons (except those on charterers’ behalf) on board the vessel is found to be infected with a highly infectious or contagious disease and the vessel has to (i) deviate, (ii) be quarantined, or (iii) barred from entering any port, all time lost, delays and expenses whatsoever shall be on owners’ account and the vessel shall be off-hire.

Owners are fully aware that vessel is fixed for one trip via East Coast India to China.

The arbitrators made a partial final award of hire in the sum of US$2,147,717.79, without prejudice to the Charterers’ right thereafter to counterclaim the whole or any part of that sum, and reserved jurisdiction accordingly as well as jurisdiction to decide all other undetermined matters that had been referred to them. Three days ago Henshaw J decided  to uphold the decision of the arbitrators on an appeal on the following question of law.

“Where a charterparty clause provides that no deductions from hire (including for off-hire or alleged off-hire) may be made without the shipowner’s consent: Is non-payment of hire a ‘deduction’ if the Vessel is off hire at the instalment date?”

Henshaw J noted the importance of the opening words of line 146 “Notwithstanding of the terms and provisions hereof”. Line 146 singled out cl. 17, the off hire provision, as one which it qualifies. Clause 17 was not primarily directed at allowing the offsetting of overpaid hire but was mainly directed at the prior question of whether hire accrues or ceases to accrue at all. The final part of cl.17 was specifically directed at the making of deductions in the sense of subtractions from hire payments but that portion of the clause clearly included its own bespoke provision requiring the Owners’ written agreement. Read as a whole and in context, the restriction on “deductions” in line 146 applied to any exercise of rights that would otherwise arise under or by reason of cl 17 to reduce (wholly or partly) a hire payment based on the vessel being off hire. 

The use of the words “whether/ or alleged off hire” showed that line 146 was designed to cater for situations where a dispute exists about whether the vessel is off hire or not, and to address the situation by requiring the hire to be paid, leaving the argument for later. The Owners did not have an unfettered discretion when deciding whether or not to agree to an alleged off-hire: their discretion had to be exercised for a contractually appropriate purpose (so there has to be a genuine dispute about the deduction) and rationally. Under clause 23 the Charterers had a cross-claim in debt for any overpaid hire which was secured by a lien on the vessel. The arbitrators were correct to reject Charterers’ submission, that line 146 applied only to set-offs and cross-claims.

The conclusion as to the construction of line 146 meant that it was not necessary to consider the effect of the Bingham J’s decision in The Lutetian [1982] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 140 that where the vessel is off hire at the date on which a hire instalment would otherwise fall due, the effect of what is now cl. 17 of the charterparty is that the obligation to pay hire is suspended. The Lutetian clearly could not be dispositive of the present case, because it contained no equivalent to line 146.


Essentially the additional clause in line 146 reverses the position with claims for off hire. The usual position with a time charter is that a charterer may make deductions on an interim basis only where it can establish that they were made both in good faith and on reasonable grounds at the time of deduction (those requirements applying whether the deduction is made pursuant to equitable set-off or an express term of the charterparty). This is reversed with line 146. Hire continues to be paid, unless owners consent to the deduction for the claimed off hire, with charterers then having to claim overpaid hire from owners. This discretion has to be made for a contractually appropriate purpose -there must be a genuine dispute about the deduction – and rationally.  For charterers it is a case of “pay now, claim back later.”

 COVID may have provided the occasion for this decision, but there is no decision as to whether charterers will be able to claim back hire for this period as off-hire. This will involve construing how cl.67 will operate in circumstances where the port authority refuse to allow the vessel into berth for a substantial period of time during which it is clear that the affected crew members must no longer be infected.

But that is a matter for another day.