Demurrage cannot last forever – but can go on for a bit longer.


MSC v Cottonex Anstalt was the case we reported last autumn about the containers of cotton that nobody came to collect from their discharge port in Bangladesh. Leggatt J held that the carrier was entitled to claim demurrage from the shipper under the bill of lading up to the point at which the contract came to an end due to its repudiation by the shipper. The Court of Appeal has upheld the first instance finding but has overturned the finding that the repudiation took place on 27 September 2011 when the shipper advised the carrier that it would not be able to collect the containers. At this time the delay was between two and a half to four months from discharge and the carrier argued that this was not a long enough period of delay to go to the root of the contract.


The Court of Appeal agreed ([2016] EWCA Civ 789). No reason had been given as to why the contract should be taken to have been repudiated on 27 September 2011. Instead, the Court of Appeal fixed on 2 February 2012 as the date of repudiation. That was when the carrier offered to sell the containers to the shipper in an attempt to break the impasse. That was the clearest indication that the commercial purpose of the adventure had by then become frustrated. The sale would have discharged the shipper’s obligation to redeliver the containers and with it the final obligations under the contracts of carriage which still remained to be performed. Accordingly, the shipper was liable for demurrage up to that date and for the value of the containers by way of damages.


Published by

Professor Simon Baughen

Professor Simon Baughen was appointed as Professor of Shipping Law in September 2013 (previously Reader at the University of Bristol Law School). Simon Baughen studied law at Oxford and practised in maritime law for several years before joining academia. His research interests lie mainly in the field of shipping law, but also include the law of trusts and the environmental law implications of the activities of multinational corporations in the developing world. Simon's book on Shipping Law, has run to seven editions (soon to be eight) and is already well-known to academics and students alike as by far the most learned and approachable work on the subject. Furthermore, he is now the author of the very well-established practitioner's work Summerskill on Laytime. He has an extensive list of publications to his name, including International Trade and the Protection of the Environment, and Human Rights and Corporate Wrongs - Closing the Governance Gap. He has also written and taught extensively on commercial law, trusts and environmental law. Simon is a member of the Institute of International Shipping and Trade Law, a University Research Centre within the School of Law, and he currently teaches at Swansea on the LLM in:Carriage of Goods by Sea, Land and Air; Charterparties Law and Practice; International Corporate Governance.

One thought on “Demurrage cannot last forever – but can go on for a bit longer.”

Leave a Reply