Let’s  not be punitive. SCOTUS goes ‘wet’ on unseaworthiness.

 

American seamen have three avenues of recovery against a shipowner in respect of injuries sustained on board a ship: maintenance and cure; the Jones Act; a claim of unseaworthiness.

Punitive damages are available for the first of these, but not the second. The position as regards unseaworthiness was, until recently, unclear with a Circuit split on the issue. This has now been resolved by the Supreme Court’s decision in Dutra Group v Batterton ,588- U.S.. ____ (2019) , to the effect that punitive damages are not recoverable. The  overwhelming historical evidence was against such damages being available in an action for unseaworthiness. A  novel remedy could not be sanctioned unless it is re­quired to maintain uniformity with Congress’s clearly expressed poli­cies, particularly those in the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Jones Act), under which only compensatory damages were recoverable.

To allow punitive damages on unseaworthiness claims would create bizarre disparities in the law. First, a mariner could make a claim for punitive damages if he was injured onboard a ship, but his estate would lose the right to seek punitivedamages in a wrongful death action if he died from his injuries. Second, because unseaworthi­ness claims run against the owner of the vessel, the owner could be liable for punitive damages while the ship’s master or operator—who could be more culpable—would not be liable for such damages under the Jones Act. Third, allowing punitive damages would place Amer­ican shippers at a significant competitive disadvantage and discour­age foreign-owned vessels from employing American seamen

Targets, targets, targets. Climate change hots up.

 

Last year we reported on two judicial review challenges to government policy on climate change, one in the Netherlands, the other in the UK.

The Netherlands challenge brought by Urgenda resulted in an order that that the Netherlands State be ordered to achieve a reduction so that the cumulative volume of Netherlands greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced at least by 25%, by the end of 2020, relative to 1990 levels. The Netherlands State appealed against the order and the Dutch Supreme Court heard the case on 24 May 2019 and a judgment is expected over the summer.

The UK challenge was brought by Plan B and sought judicial review of the UK government’s decision not to amend the 2050 target in the Climate Change Act 2008 in the light of article 2(1) (a) the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which the UK has ratified, the parties commit to: “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” The challenge failed and leave to appeal was rejected earlier this year.

Since then the UK Committee on Climate Change, in line with the findings of the IPCC in October 2018, has recommended a new emissions target for the UK of net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050. The previous target was to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 (“the 2050 target”) is at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline. This week a statutory instrument, the Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019, was laid amending the Climate Change Act 2008 so that ‘80%’ is replaced by ‘100%’.

This is a ‘net’ figure, which allows for the ability to use international carbon credits to offset emissions within an appropriate monitoring, reporting and verification framework. In addition, under s.30(1) of the Act emissions from international aviation and shipping do not count as emissions from sources in the UK. The Government have said that they will review the ‘net zero’ target within 5 years to check that other countries are following suit, and, if not, reserve the right to revert to the original 80% target.

To stabilise at 1.5 degrees over pre industrial levels by 2100 the IPCC has stated that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere should not exceed 430 parts per million, and for stabilising at 2 degrees the levels should not exceed 450 per million. Last month a reading at a weather station in Hawaii recorded 415 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. The current annual rate of increase is in the order of 3 parts per million.

Supplytime 2017. Pay now, counterclaim later.

Boskalis Offshore Marine Contracting BV v Atlantic Marine and Aviation LLP (The “Atlantic Tonjer”) [2019] EWHC 1213 (Comm) is the first case to consider Supplytime 2017. A multi-purpose support vessel was chartered by disponent owners, Atlantic Marine, to Boskalis for 21 days on Supplytime 2017 form. Atlantic Marine rendered invoices for hire, accommodation, meals and other services which Boskalis did not pay on the grounds that the largest item in dispute was not due because the vessel was offhire throughout.

Clause 12(e) of Supplytime 2017 provides:
“Payments – Payments of hire, fuel invoices and disbursements for the Charterers’ account shall be received within the number of days stated in Box 24 from the date of receipt of the invoice. Payment shall be received in the currency stated in Box 20(i) in full without discount or set-off to the account stated in Box 23… If payment is not received by the Owners within five (5) Banking Days following the due date the Owners are entitled to charge interest at the rate stated in Box 25 on the amount outstanding from and including the due date until payment is received.
If the Charterers reasonably believe an incorrect invoice has been issued, they shall notify the Owners promptly, but in no event no later than the due date, specifying the reason for disputing the invoice. The Charterers shall pay the undisputed portion of the invoice but shall be entitled to withhold payment of the disputed amount…”
In this case the due date was 21 days.
Sir Ross Cranston, acting as a judge of the High Court has held that clause 12(e) does debar charterers from raising defences against owners’ invoices if and to the extent that they have failed to notify owners that they believed those invoices to be incorrect because of those defences by the due date of those invoices. Clause 12(e) is not a time bar provision. It gave Boskalis a relatively short period of 21 days within which to dispute an invoice and once that period has expired, Boskalis came under an obligation to pay any undisputed sum to Atlantic Marine, whether they were liable for such sums or not, with disputed sums left over to be subsequently resolved. Boskalis’s obligation to pay any undisputed sum to Atlantic Marine was also subject to their right subsequently to challenge their liability for such sums either by requiring an audit under clause 12(g) and a credit (if appropriate) or by way of a counterclaim.

The clause was clear and unambiguous. “A reasonable person with the background knowledge available to the parties at the time of the contract would understand that invoices had to be paid within 21 days of their being received. namely, that charterers are barred from disputing the payment of invoices unless done within the 21 days referred to in the contract.”

If charterers reasonably believed that there was an error in the invoice they could withhold payment of the disputed amount by notifying the owners under the clause within the period agreed in the contract. Charterers also had the audit rights under clause 12 (g) to reclaim amounts paid through accounting-type errors (wrong hire rate, wrong number of meals and so) up to four years ahead, as well as the right bring a counterclaim, for breach of contract or for unjust enrichment, if they had paid sums which they later believed were not properly payable.

Brexit. UK to exit with no deal on 31 October unless Parliament passes vote of no confidence in the government.

With the resignation of Mrs May and the end of any prospect of Parliament passing the withdrawal agreement reached with the EU last November, it is looking very likely that the UK will leave the EU with no deal on 31 October. This is the default position under the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. Analysis by Maddy Thimont of the Institute of Government shows that the only way a no-deal exit could be stopped would be by Parliament passing a vote of no-confidence in the government. https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/new-prime-minister-intent-no-deal-brexit-cant-be-stopped-mps-0

The ‘Cooper’ clause added to the 2018 Act would only have effect in relation to any proposed ratification of the proposed withdrawal agreement with the EU. The clause in the 2018 Act requiring required the Government to hold a vote in the Commons if no agreement had been reached with the EU by 21 January is somewhat time expired now.

Who’d want to be PM now?

When is a bill of lading ‘spent’?

 

In The Yue You 9023 [2019] SGHC 106 the High Court of Singapore has considered the issue of title to sue when spent bills of lading are involved under section 2(2)(a) of the Bills of Lading Act (equivalent to UK COGSA 1992). The bank held bills of lading as security for a loan to the buyer and sued the shipowner for misdelivery in delivering the cargo to a party nominated by the seller before the loan was made without production of a bill of lading. The court held that delivery of cargo to a party that was not entitled to delivery did not cause a bill of lading to be spent (a point noted obiter by the Court of Appeal in The Erin Schulte).

If, however, the bill had been spent the bank would have obtained title to sue under s.2(2)(a) as the loan facility agreement made several years earlier between the bank and the buyer was the contractual arrangement in pursuance of which the transaction had been effected for the purpose of section 2(2)(a). Further the bank had become the holder of the bills in good faith as required by s.5(2) of the Bills of Lading Act and its decision to grant the loan to the buyer against security over the bills, even on the assumption that it knew that the cargo had been discharged, could not be said to have been dishonest; nor could the bank be said to have consented to delivery of the cargo without production of the bills of lading.

The Norstar case at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Panama wins but awarded less than 1% of its claims.

 

In the Norstar case (Panama v Italy) on 10 April 2019, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea found that: Italy had violated article 87, paragraph 1, of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea; article 87, paragraph 2, of UNCLOS was not applicable in the case; and that Italy did not violate article 300 of UNCLOS. The Tribunal awarded Panama compensation for the loss of the M/V “Norstar” in the amount of US$ 285,000 with interest.

The Norstar, a Panamanian-flagged vessel was engaged in supplying gasoil to mega yachts in the Mediterranean Sea. On 11 August 1998, the Public Prosecutor at the Court of Savona, Italy, issued a Decree of Seizure against the M/V “Norstar”, in the context of criminal proceedings instituted against eight individuals for alleged smuggling and tax evasion. At the request of Italy, the vessel was seized by Spanish authorities when anchored in the bay of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, in September 1998. The Tribunal found that art. 87 might be applicable as the bunkering activities of the M/V “Norstar” on the high seas in fact constituted not only an integral part, but also a central element, of the activities targeted by the Decree of Seizure and its execution.

The Tribunal noted that article 87 “proclaims that the high seas are open to all States” and that “save in exceptional cases, no State may exercise jurisdiction over a foreign ship on the high seas”. In this context, it observed that the “[f]reedom of navigation would be illusory if a ship … could be subject to the jurisdiction of other States on the high seas” Recalling its jurisprudence in  The Virginia G, the Tribunal then expressed the view that “bunkering on the high seas is part of the freedom of navigation to be exercised under the conditions laid down by the Convention and other rules of international law” and found that the bunkering of leisure boats carried out by the M/V “Norstar” on the high seas fell within the freedom of navigation under article 87.

In the view of the Tribunal, “if a State applies its criminal and customs laws to the high seas and criminalizes activities carried out by foreign ships thereon, it would constitute a breach of article 87 of the Convention, unless justified by the Convention or other international treaties” and “[t]his would be so, even if the State refrained from enforcing those laws on the high seas” adding that, “even when enforcement is carried out in internal waters, article 87 may still be applicable and be breached if a State extends its criminal and customs laws extraterritorially to activities of foreign ships on the high seas and criminalizes them” . The Tribunal concluded that Italy, through the Decree of Seizure by the Public Prosecutor at the Court of Savona against the M/V “Norstar”, the Request for its execution, and the arrest and detention of the vessel, had breached article 87(1) of UNCLOS.

The Tribunal found that art.87(2) which provides “These freedoms shall be exercised by all States with due regard for the interests of other States in their exercise of the freedom of the high seas,…” was not applicable in this case as it was Panama, not Italy, that was subject to the obligation of due regard. The Tribunal held that Italy had not violated art. 300 (Good Faith and Abuse of Rights). Article 300 cannot be invoked on its own and a State Party claiming a breach of article 300 must, inter alia, “establish a link between its claim under article 300 and ‘the obligations assumed under this Convention’ or ‘the rights, jurisdiction and freedoms recognized in this Convention’.

The Tribunal turned to reparation and held that Panama was entitled to compensation for damage suffered by it as well as for damage or other loss suffered by the M/V “Norstar”, including all persons involved or interested in its operation and emphasized the requirement of a causal link between the wrongful act committed and damage suffered.  The causal link between the wrongful act of Italy and damage suffered by Panama was interrupted on 26 March 2003” – when the shipowner received an official communication from the Court of Savona that the vessel was unconditionally released from detention – and any damage that may have been sustained after 26 March 2003 was not directly caused by the arrest and detention of the M/V “Norstar”.

The Tribunal awarded US$ 285,000 as the value of the M/V “Norstar” together with interest This was less than 1% of the total claims put forward by Panama. The tribunal did not award compensation with regard to Panama’s other claims: loss of profits; continued payment of wages; payment due for fees and taxes; loss and damage to the charterer of the M/V “Norstar”; and material and non-material damage to natural persons.

‘Howsoever caused’ in exception clause in bill of lading covers loss due to negligence and unseaworthiness.  

 

The Elin (Aprile S.PA. v Elin Maritime Ltd) [2019] EWHC [1001] (Comm) involved a claim under a bill of lading for damage to a cargo carried on deck which was stated to be so carried, and was therefore not subject to the Hague Rules. Owners sought to rely on two clauses.

1- the provision on page 1 of the Bill of Lading that “The Carrier shall in no case be responsible for loss of or damage to the cargo, howsoever arising … in respect of deck cargo”

2- the provision on page 2 of the Bill of Lading that the 70 packages identified on the attached list were “loaded on deck at shipper’s and/or consignee’s and/or receiver’s risk; the carrier and/or Owners and/or Vessel being not responsible for loss or damage howsoever arising”.

Owners argued that these two provisions must be interpreted as excluding all liability for carriage of deck cargo, including liability for negligence and unseaworthiness.. The phrase “howsoever arising”, which appeared in each of the clauses referred to all causes of loss or damage. The Owner relied on the decisions of Saville J,  Langley J and Hamblen J in The Danah [1993] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 351, The Imvros [1999] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 848 and The Socol 3 [2010] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 221, respectively.

Stephen Hofmeyr QC, sitting as a Judge of the High Court agreed. Nothing in the authorities to justify departing from that point of construction. The same or similar words of exclusion have been held to be effective to exclude both liability for negligence causing the loss of cargo (Travers v Cooper [1915] 1 K. B. 73 and  [1993] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 351) and liability for unseaworthiness causing the loss of cargo (The Imvros). It would be difficult to imagine words of exemption which are wider in effect than “howsoever caused”. Over the last 100 years, they had become “the classic phrase” whereby to exclude liability for negligence and unseaworthiness. Accordingly on a true construction of the Bill of Lading, the Owner was not liable for any loss of or damage to any cargo carried on deck, including loss of or damage to any cargo carried on deck caused by the unseaworthiness of the Vessel and/or the Owner’s negligence.

“My wife may capture my heart”. Off hire and capture by pirates.

 

Owners time chartered the “Eleni P” on an amended NYPE 1946 form and during a voyage from Ukraine to China the vessel was routed via the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Aden. After transiting the Gulf of Aden without incident she was attacked and captured by pirates in the Arabian sea and released some seven months later.

Owners claimed US$ 4.5 million hire for this period. The Tribunal rejected the claim on the grounds that two additional typed clauses, clauses 49 and 101, excluded it. Owners appealed in respect of the correct construction of each pursuant to s69 of the Arbitration Act 1996. In Eleni Shipping Limited v Transgrain Shipping BV (“The ELENI P”) [2019] EWHC 910 (Comm) Popplewell J held that the appeal succeeded in respect of clause 49, but failed in respect of clause 101.

Clause 49 – Capture, Seizure and ArrestShould the vessel be captures [sic] or seized or detained or arrested by any authority or by any legal process during the currency of this Charter Party, the payment of hire shall be suspended for the actual time lost […]

Owners contended before Popplewell J that Clause 49 only applied when the Vessel was captured, seized, detained or arrested by any authority or any legal process – it therefore did not apply to capture by pirates. Charterers argued that only the word “arrested” was qualified by the phrase “by any authority or by any legal process” andnot  the word “captured” , and therefore as a matter of ordinary language, the Vessel had been captured.

Popplewell J held that the clause only applied to capture by an authority or legal process, and therefore not to capture by pirates. The words “any authority or any legal process” applied to the whole preceding list of events. To limit it to arrest would be superfluous. The tribunal had stated that ‘capture’ was not something that an ‘authority’ could be involved with. Not so, Popplewell J stating “capture does not necessarily connote the use of force. Unoccupied land or undefended goods may be captured. My wife may capture my heart. I see no difficulty as a matter of the ordinary use of language in the concept of a governmental authority or ruler capturing a vessel.”

Clause 101 – Piracy ClauseCharterers are allowed to transit Gulf of Aden any time, all extra war risk premium and/or kidnap and ransom as quoted by the vessel’s Underwriters, if any, will be reimbursed by Charterers. […] In case vessel should be threatened/kidnapped by reason of piracy, payment of hire shall be suspended. It’s remain understood [sic] that during transit of Gulf of Aden the vessel will follow all procedures as required for such transit including but not limited the instructions as received by the patrolling squad in the area for safe participating to the convoy west or east bound.

Did the suspension of hire only operate if the vessel were threatened or kidnapped by reason of piracy while transiting the Gulf of Aden, as owners argued, or did it operate wherever the Vessel was threatened in the Gulf of Aden or as an immediate consequence of her transiting or being about to transit the Gulf, a charterers argued? The Tribunal had accepted charterers’ argument and so did Popplewell J. The purpose of the Clause was to allocate the risks associated with such trade, not solely within a specifically defined geographical area. Its first sentence allocates the burden of an extra war risk premium and the sentence concerning hire suspension allocates the risk of delay from detention as a consequence of the transit which the first sentence requires.

Accordingly, owners were unable to claim hire for the seven months during which the vessel was held by the pirates.

Brandt v Liverpool implied contract falls outside art. 25 of Brussels Regulation (Recast).

 

In Pan Ocean Co. Ltd v China-Base Group Co. Ltd & Anor [2019] EWHC 982 (Comm) (16 April 2019) Christopher Hancock QC (Sitting as a Judge of the High Court) has held that an implied contract arising out of the conduct of the parties at the port of discharge did not fall within art.25 of the Brussels Regulation (Recast) 2012.

A cif contract was concluded between Gunvor and China-Base, loadport to be any port in Indonesia, Malaysia, or the Philippines with delivery in China.  A bill of lading was issued recording the loading of about 36,360 mt of light cycle oil and gas oil at Zhoushan, China and Taichung, Taiwan. Pan Ocean, the demise charterer of the vessel voyage chartered the vessel to Clearlake shipping a company said to be associated with Gunvor. The charterparty provided for English law and Jurisdiction. Pan Ocean issued bills of lading which accurately reflected the loadports and nature of the cargo and the vessel then loaded further cargo of gasoil in the Philippines. No bills of lading were issued for this cargo but in accordance with Clearlake’s instructions, it is said that an agent of Pan Ocean issued switch bills of lading falsely naming the loadport for the entire cargo as Subic Bay, Philippines and mis-describing the entire cargo as light cycle oil. The Vessel discharged the cargo into bonded shore tanks in Nansha, China. China-Base/Beihai neither presented any bills of lading nor gave any letter of indemnity to Pan Ocean or their agents. The cargo was impounded by the Chinese authorities on grounds of customs irregularities.

The buyers arrested the vessel in Singapore claiming damages for alleged misrepresentations in the cargo documentation. The demise charterers sought an anti-suit injunction in the English High Court to prevent the buyers proceeding with their claim in Singapore and claimed that the English court had exclusive jurisdiction over their claim under art. 25(1) of the Brussels Regulation (Recast) which provides

  1. If the parties, regardless of their domicile, have agreed that a court or the courts of a Member State are to have jurisdiction to settle any disputes which have arisen or which may arise in connection with a particular legal relationship, that court or those courts shall have jurisdiction, unless the agreement is null and void as to its substantive validity under the law of that Member State. Such jurisdiction shall be exclusive unless the parties have agreed otherwise. The agreement conferring jurisdiction shall be either:

(a) in writing or evidenced in writing;

(b) in a form which accords with practices which the parties have established between themselves; or

(c) in international trade or commerce, in a form which accords with a usage of which the parties are or ought to have been aware and which in such trade or commerce is widely known to, and regularly observed by, parties to contracts of the type involved in the particular trade or commerce concerned.”

The demise charterers argued that an implied contract had come into existence between themselves and the buyers at the discharge port on the terms of the bill of lading. The Judge addressed this issue on the assumption that there was an implied contract between the parties. He held that although the bill of lading which would constitute the terms of the putative implied contract was in writing, the agreement itself had to be in writing in accordance with Art 25(1)(a) ““The agreement conferring jurisdiction shall be … (a) in writing or evidenced in writing”).” This was not the case where the agreement contended for was an implied contract based on the actions of the parties in taking delivery of the cargo at the port of discharge.

Had it been established that the English court had exclusive jurisdiction, the court, applying the approach laid down in Ecobank v. Tanoh [2016] 1 WLR 2231. would not have granted an interim anti-suit injunction. The application for an injunction had neither been sought promptly, nor before the proceedings were too far advanced. Over 9 months had passed since the warrant of arrest in Singapore was served, with several hearings in Singapore during that period.

IISTL Member to present paper at ASDEM’s 14th International Oil Industry Laytime and Demurrage Conference on 16/17 May

 

 

IISTL member Professor Simon Baughen will be presenting a paper “LEGAL ISSUES OF DEMURRAGE AND PUMPING WARRANTIES” at Asdem’s 14th International Oil Industry Laytime and Demurrage Conference on 16/17 May at the Le Meridien Piccadilly Hotel in London.

Pumping warranties are the norm in tanker charters and apply a separate laytime and demurrage regime to the period of discharge, and sometimes to the period of loading as well. They have also generated many disputes between owners and charterers as to how this separate regime operates and how it fits in with the demurrage time bar clauses that are invariably found in tanker charters. Professor Baughen will be looking at the pumping clauses found in oil charterparties from the wide range of additional clauses that are necessary for Asbatankvoy to the standard warranties in widely used modern forms and examining the legal issues they give rise to.

The full speaker line-up and topic list for this event, can be found in Asdem’s brochure which you can download by clicking here.

To register immediately on-line, please click here.