The Court of Appeal in The Yangtze Xing Hua  EWCA Civ 2107 has upheld the decision of Teare J that “act” in the phrase “act or neglect” in cl. 8 (d) of the 1996 Inter-Club Agreement means any act, whether culpable or not. The charterers, who had not been paid for the cargo, had ordered the vessel to remain off the Iranian discharge port for four months, during which time the cargo overheated, leading to a claim being brought against the owners, which they settled. Owners were entitled to recover the full amount of the settlement from charterers under the proviso to cl. 8(d): “unless there is clear and irrefutable evidence that the claim arose out of the act or neglect of the one or the other (including their servants or sub-contractors) in which case that party shall then bear 100% of the claim.”
The Court of Appeal has confirmed that the natural meaning of the word “act” was something which is done and did not connote culpability. “Neglect” did connote culpability but in the context of the ICA, which contained various provisions which applied regardless of culpability, this did not colour the meaning of “act”. Under cl.8 the critical question was that of causation, whether the claim “in fact” arose out of the act, operation or state of affairs described.