Official blog of Swansea University's IISTL, where we keep you up to date with the latest maritime and commercial legal news.
The Global Santosh and the Vicarious Performance of Third Parties
The Supreme Court today (11 May 2016) handed down its decision in NYK Bulkship (Atlantic) NV v Cargill International SA (The Global Santosh)  UKSC 20.
Simon Rainey QC, visiting fellow of the IISTL, was brought in to argue the SC appeal and represented the successful appellants, Cargill.
The decision of the Supreme Court is a landmark one in relation to a contracting party’s responsibility for the vicarious or delegated performance by a third party of its contractual obligations, both in the common charterparty and international sale of goods contexts.
The Global Santosh was time chartered on terms that the vessel should be off-hire during any period of detention or arrest by any authority or legal process, unless the detention or arrest was “occasioned by any personal act or omission or default of the Charterers or their agents.” She was arrested as a result of a dispute between the receiver of the cargo and a party who appears to have been a sub-sub-charterer, and which had nothing to do with the owners or the ship. The question which arises on this appeal is whether the arrest can be regarded as having been occasioned by the time charterer’s “agents” in the sense in which that word is used in the proviso.
The meaning of the common term “or their agents” in this charter context raised far-reaching issues as to the extent of a party’s responsibility under a contract for the acts of a third party who vicariously performs some aspect of the party’s contractual obligations or to whom performance of the obligation has been delegated by the creation and operation of a series of sub-contracts.
These issues, previously only canvassed at first instance and open to debate, have now been addressed in full by the Supreme Court.
Summary of the Supreme Court’s Decision
In general terms, in deciding whether a contracting party is liable or responsible for some act or omission done by a third party in performing that party’s obligation under a contract, the correct approach is to define what obligation has been delegated to the third party and to what extent that party is vicariously acting as the contracting party in acting or omitting to act.
In the specific context of a time charterparty off hire clause, the question as to who bears responsibility for delay occasioned by an arrest by or involving such a third party is one of construction of the clause.
But the use of the concept of charterer’s “agents” in such a provision (and others) is to be approached in just the same general way.
In particular, there is no over-arching concept of ‘spheres of responsibility’ which would treat any party who becomes involved in the chain of contracts around the charterparty which result from the charterer’s trading of the vessel and its commercial or trading arrangements (such as a sub- or sub-sub- charterer or a buyer or seller of cargoes) as its “agent” by being on the charterer’s ‘side of the line’.
Simon Rainey KC is one of the best-known and most highly regarded practitioners at the Commercial Bar with a high reputation for his intellect, advocacy skills, commercial pragmatism and commitment to client care. He has established a broad commercial advisory and advocacy practice spanning substantial commercial contractual disputes, international trade and commodities, energy and natural resources, insurance and reinsurance shipping and maritime law in all its aspects,. He appears in the Commercial Court and Court of Appeal and also the Supreme Court (with two recent landmark victories in NYK v Cargill  UKSC 20 and Bunge SA v Nidera SA  UKSC 43.) He regularly handles Arbitration Act 1996 challenges.
He has extensive experience of international arbitration, regularly appearing as advocate under all of the main international arbitral rules (LCIA; SIAC, UNCITRAL; ICC, Swiss Rules etc) and also sitting as arbitrator.
Current examples of his work as counsel are in arbitration before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in a US 13billion gas supply dispute; under Nigerian Law and seat in relation to an offshore oilfield redetermination dispute between oil majors, under UNCITRAL Rules in a mining supply take or pay dispute involving one of the world’s leading mine conglomerates; an ICC arbitration concerning a new mine development in Russia and an ICC Dubai seat arbitration involving specialist offshore vessels and in associated s67 and s68 LCIA challenges in the A v B  EWHC 3417 (Comm) litigation in the4 Commercial Court. Recent arbitral appointments include an ICC Paris seat arbitration concerning a power station failure, a French law and seat arbitration relating to an oil rig drilling contract, an offshore construction contract claim under SIAC Rules and a long-term ore supply contract claim under Swiss Rules.
He is highly ranked by Chambers and Partners and Legal 500 as a first division international arbitration specialist (“Highly regarded for his expertise in handling high-profile international arbitrations in connection with complex oil and gas, banking and finance and trade issues. He is well known for his prowess in advising and representing clients in disputes in countries as far flung as Turkey, Russia, the USA, China and India” 2018; “Incredibly good, with a particular skill in reducing the complicated to the elegantly simple, which when you're trying to present a case to a tribunal or court is one of the more valuable things you need to have” 2018; “Clearly now one of the top commercial silks and a delight to work with.” 2018; “A mixture of brilliance and brevity, his written submissions are like poetry” 2018), He was nominated for “International Arbitration Silk of the Year 2017” by Legal 500 and has also been awarded “Shipping & Commodities Silk of the Year” 2017 by both Chambers & Partners and Legal 500.
He sits as a deputy High Court Judge in the Commercial Court and is Honorary Professor of Law, Business and Economics, Swansea University.
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