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.

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.

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