Claims against time charterers for damage to ship, caused by damage to cargo, not subject to limitation under 1976 LLMC.

In  July 2012 while under charter to MSC from the owner Conti, the MSC Flaminia suffered an explosion which killed five of her crew, and one crew member was never found.  Hundreds of containers were destroyed and extensive damage was caused to the ship. The explosion was caused by auto-polymerisation of the contents of one or more of three tank containers laden with 80% divinylbenzene (‘DVB’) which  had been shipped at New Orleans on 1 July 2012. In a series of arbitration awards MSC was held liable to Conti in respect of the casualty, and Conti was awarded damages of c.US$200 million on a quantification by the arbitrators of its recoverable losses.

In June 2020 MSC commenced an Admiralty limitation claim under the 1976 LLMC as amended by the 1996 Protocol which came before Andrew Baker J who gave judgment at the start of this month, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company SA v Stolt Tank Containers BV & Ors [2022] EWHC 2746 (Admlty) (02 November 2022)

There were three defendants two Stolt companies (the first and second defendants, ‘Stolt’), Stolt having been the road carrier of the DVB tank containers to New Orleans, and vis-à-vis MSC the shippers of those containers onto MSC Flaminia, claimants other than Stolt in a claim brought by cargo claimants whose bill of lading claims against MSC were subject to English law and jurisdiction, and Conti, the shipowner.

Conti’s claims included ship repair costs, payments to public authorities in Belgium, France, the UK and Germany following the casualty and also the costs of and associated with removing the waste from the ship. Could MSC limit in respect of these claims? This involved a question of whether the effect of the phrase ‘consequential loss’ in Article 2(1)(a). Where losses caused by damage to the cargo were losses which Conti was required to incur in order to repair the ship, could Conti’s claims in respect of those losses be characterised as claims in respect of damage to the ship or consequential losses resulting from such damage and if so, did it follow that those claims could not be limited under Article 2(1)(a)?

Claims for consequential loss had been found to be limitable in The Aegean Sea  and The APK Sydney. Andrew Baker J, considered that the lost profits claims in The Aegean Sea, were claims for consequential loss resulting from the environmental damage, and the lost profits claims in The APL Sydney, had been claims for consequential loss resulting from the pipeline damage, where the relevant property damage occurred in direct connection with the operation of the ship in question, and was not damage to the ship herself. Those claims as made against the owner were limitable, and similarly the claim by the owner to pass those claims on to the charterer.

However that was not the case in the instant case, which involved claims in respect of damage to the ship which were not limitable, as held by the Court of Appeal in The CMA Djakarta , approved obiter by the Supreme Court in The Ocean Victory. The fact that it could be said, in point of fact, that all the damage to the ship can be traced back, by a chain of causation, to loss of or damage to the DVB that exploded, did not mean that a claim by Conti for compensation for damage to the ship was a claim in respect of loss of or damage to the DVB (or consequential loss resulting therefrom). The causal connection on the facts did not turn a claim for damaging the ship into a cargo claim. Conti’s claim against MSC, established in the arbitration, did not seek to enforce a right of redress in respect of loss of or damage to cargo, but rather a right of redress in respect of the risk of harm to the ship that had been posed by the cargo, and the damage the ship suffered when that risk eventuated

MSC also claimed that costs incurred by Conti related to the removal or destruction of cargo waste, burned or unburned were limitable under Article 2(1)(e), as claims “in respect of the removal, destruction or the rendering harmless of the cargo of the ship”. This claim was also found not to be limitable. The ordinary meaning of Article 2.1(d)/(e), is that tonnage limitation is to apply in respect of liabilities such as might be incurred by an owner for casualty intervention or aftermath liabilities of the kinds indicated, i.e. wreck removal (etc.) (Article 2.1(d)) and cargo removal, destruction or neutralisation (Article 2.1(e)). Conti’s claim for reimbursement of or damages in respect of the cost of cargo handling due to MSC’s breach in loading dangerous cargo was not a claim in respect of the removal, destruction or rendering harmless of cargo within Article 2.1(e). Nor could the claims be limitable to the extent that the relevant costs related to the removal or destruction of cargo waste, burned or unburned as they were to be characterised as claims in respect of damage to the ship or for consequential losses resulting from such damage.

As regards Conti’s costs cost incurred in disposing of the firefighting water these were not limitable under Article 2.1(f) as the claim was not distinct from the non-limitable category of claims in respect of the loss of or damage to the ship.

Effectively, all Conti’s claims related to damage to the ship and the fact that had occurred due to the damage to the cargo in the explosion did not mean that the claim was one relating to damage to cargo. All the claims were claims for damage to the ship and were not subject to limitation.

All clear now? A unified interpretation on breaking limitation under LLMC 1976 and 1992 Protocol, and 1992 Protocol to CLC.

On 15 December 2021 the International Maritime Organization adopted two resolutions on the interpretation of Art 4 of LLMC 1976 and of the 1996 Protocol to LLMC 1976. The resolution is framed as a statement by the State Parties to the LLMC 1976. As such,  it would have binding effect as between the State Parties. Article 31(3) (a) of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties provides: “There shall be taken into account, together with the context (a) any subsequent agreement between the parties regarding the interpretation of the treaty of the application.” Domestic courts must “take into account” the subsequent agreement when interpreting the treaty but are not required to so. The two resolutions, which are identical, state that the test for breaking limitation of liability under LLMC is to be interpreted as follows:

“(a) as virtually unbreakable in nature, i.e. breakable only in very limited circumstances and based on the principle of unbreakability;

(b) to mean a level of culpability analogous to wilful misconduct, namely:

(i) a level higher than the concept of gross negligence, since that concept was rejected by the 1976 International Conference on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims;

(ii) a level that would deprive the shipowner of the right to be indemnified under their marine insurance policy; and

(iii) a level that provides that the loss of entitlement to limit liability should begin where the level of culpability is such that insurability ends;

(c) that the term “recklessly” is to be accompanied by “knowledge” that such pollution damage, damage or loss would probably result, and that the two terms establish a level of culpability that must be met in their combined totality and should not be considered in isolation of each other; and

(d) that the conduct of parties other than the shipowner, for example the master, crew or servants of the shipowner, is irrelevant and should not be taken into account when seeking to establish whether the test has been met;”

The interpretation largely reflects the existing interpretation of Art 4 under UK law, but the linking of culpability in (b) to a level analogous to wilful misconduct and the loss of insurance cover under a marine insurance policy is a new factor in determining when the right to limit liability is to be lost. In Canada in Peracomo Inc. v. TELUS Communications Co., [2014 SCC 29, [2014] 1 S.C.R. 621, Wagner J dissenting in part.] the Supreme Court held that Art 4 imposes a higher standard of fault than does the insurance exclusion in s. 53(2) of the Marine Insurance Act1993, the provision  equivalent to s.55(2) (a) of the UK Marine Insurance Act 1906,and that the shipowner who had been guilty of wilful misconduct in cutting a submarine cable could limit their liability but the loss was excluded from coverage under their marine insurance policy.

Cromwell J, at para 67, identified the distinction as follows

“While the threshold to break liability under the Convention requires intention or recklessness with knowledge that the loss will probably occur, wilful misconduct under the Marine Insurance Act does not require either intention to cause the loss or subjective knowledge that the loss will probably occur.  It requires, in the context of this case, simply misconduct with reckless indifference to the known risk despite a duty to know.”  

A third resolution adopted the same interpretation as regards Art 6 of the 1992 Protocol to the CLC.

The ILO adopts a Resolution on Financial Security in cases of the Abandonment of Seafarers 

In one of our previous posts ( ), we considered some of the issues that emerge from the operation of Standard A2.5.2 of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006, as amended, on financial security in cases of the abandonment of seafarers. In particular, we looked at paragraph 9 of this Standard which requires that the coverage provided by the financial security system when seafarers are abandoned by shipowners shall be limited to four months of any such outstanding wages and four months of any such outstanding entitlements. In this regard, we highlighted, inter alia, the inadequacy of the fourth month limit to accommodate the needs of seafarers when a case of abandonment is not resolved in time.  

Only a few months ago, during the second part of the fourth meeting of the Special Tripartite Committee, the possibility of extending the minimum coverage afforded by the current financial security system from four months to eight months was considered following a proposal from the seafarers’ group of representatives. While the proposal was not supported by the representatives of the shipowners’ group and the representatives of the Governments’ group, mainly because of the risks faced by the insurers, a joint resolution was adopted. The latter called for the establishment of a working group under the auspice of the Special Tripartite Committee to discuss the financial security system required under Standard A2.5.2 of the MLC, 2006, as amended, with a view to making recommendations on potential improvements that would make the system more effective and sustainable, as well as ensure a greater degree of protection and assistance for abandoned seafarers.  

Excluded wreck removal claims under art 2(d) LLMC in Hong Kong. No limitation of liability through the back door.

In Perusahaan Perseroan (Persero) PT Pertamina v Trevaskis Ltd (The Star Centurion and The Antea) – [2022] HKCA 1089 a collision occurred between the “Antea” and the “Star Centurion”, a vessel at anchor in Indonesian waters. The Star Centurion sank and the authorities issued a wreck removal order. The claimant, the owner of the “Antea”, established a limitation fund in Hong Kong and paid HK$175,062,000 into court. The wreck removal claims were HK$139 million and growing.

The claimant issued a summons seeking a declaration that that part of the defendant’s claim for damages, in respect of the raising, removal, destruction or the rendering harmless of the  “Star Centurion” was subject to limitation under article 2 of the 1976 Convention and under the limitation fund constituted by the claimant. Article 2 (d) of LLMC specifically covers wreck removal claims but Article 18(1) allows a contracting party to disapply it through a reservation. The UK has made such a reservation, and so has Hong Kong.

The claimant argued that the wreck removal claims could be limited as they fell within art 2(1)(a) “claims in respect of loss of life or personal injury or loss of or damage to property (including damage to harbour works, basins and waterways and aids to navigation), occurring on board or in direct connection with the operation of the ship or with salvage operations, and consequential loss resulting therefrom”; and also 2(1)(c) “claims in respect of other loss resulting from infringement of rights other than contractual rights, occurring in direct connection with the operation of the ship or salvage operations;”

The Hong Kong Court of Appeal has recently upheld the first instance decision [2021] HKCFI 396 that the wreck removal claims were excluded from limitation by virtue of the reservation in respect of article 2(d). Claims under this head encompassed direct claims by statutory authorities, whether under statute or at common law, and private recourse claims by shipowners for consequential loss or damage to property or resulting from the infringement of rights. There could be no “partial reservation” under article 18(1) in excluding the application of article 2(1)(d) only as regards claims by waterway authorities and not to recourse claims by shipowners. Although wreck removal claims fell within articles 2(1)(a) and (c), general provisions should give way to the specific terms of article 2(1)(d) where the claim was for wreck removal costs.

The Hong Kong Court of Appeal in reaching this conclusion referred to majority obiter dicta of the Full Court of Queensland in The Tiruna and Pelorus [1987] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 666 and to the decision of the Supreme Court of the Netherland in  Shipping Co MS Amasus BV v ELG Haneil Trading GmbH. It is likely that a UK court would come to the same decision.

Liability of demise charterer for bunkers supplied to vessel on time charterer’s orders. Contracting in to US law on what constitutes a maritime lien.

In London Arbitration 28/22 a bunker supplier that had supplied bunkers on the order of the time charterers successfully obtained an award against the demise charterers, who later exercised their option to purchase the vessel. The bunker supplier’s invoice, dated 17 May 2021, was issued to “Master and/or Owners and/or Charters (sic) of [the Vessel] and/or [registered owners] and/or [time charterers]”.

The bunker supplier’s general terms and conditions (GTC) expansively identified the buyer under cl.2.1 as “ the contracting party/ies identified in the Nomination including but not limited to any agent, principal, associate, manager, partner, servant, parent, subsidiary, owner or shareholder thereof and any vessel as defined in clause and/or vessel owner and/or charterer and/or operator to which the Products have been delivered to and/or any other party benefiting from the consumption of the Products.” Cl.15 asserted that the seller had a lien against the vessel for sums due under the contract and also provided “It is expressly agreed between Seller and Buyer that the delivery of Marine Bunker/products creates a maritime lien in accordance with article 46 US Code § 31342 of the United States Federal Maritime Lien Act.” Cl 19 provided for English law but as regards what constituted a maritime lien the US federal Maritime Lien Act was to apply.

Arbitration was brought against the demise charterer and the time charterer. The arbitrator rejected an attempt part way through the reference to add the registered owner at the time of the sale. The only way to get at the registered owner would be by commencing second proceedings against them.

The arbitrator found that both the bareboat and time charterers came within the definition of Buyer in clause 2.1 of the GTC and that the time charterers had apparent and/or ostensible authority to bind the bareboat charterers to being liable under the GTC. Although the supply of bunkers would not create a lien under English law, it would do so under US law as a supply of ‘necessaries’. The lien could extend to bunkers supplied outside the United States if that was what the parties provided for in their contract of supply. The GTC allowed him to determine the existence of such maritime liens applying US maritime law. The maritime lien transferred to the bareboat charterers when they became the owners of the vessel upon its sale and delivery to them some months after the supply of the bunkers to the vessel. Although both the time charter and the bareboat charter contained ‘no-lien’ clauses, no notice of those clauses was given to the bunker supplier before issue of its confirmation letter.

The award may cause some alarm amongst owners and demise charterers as to their potential in personam and in rem liability in respect of unpaid bunkers ordered by time charterers. The award goes against The Yuta Bondarovskaya [1998] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 357 QB, where it was held that it was not arguable that the time charterer had any sort of authority from the owner, whether implied actual or ostensible, to make bunker contracts on its behalf. It also goes against The Halcyon Isle  [1981] AC 221 where the Privy Council found that maritime claims were classified as giving rise to maritime liens which were enforceable in actions in rem in English Courts where and only where the events on which the claim was founded would have given rise to a maritime lien in English law if those events had occurred within the territorial jurisdiction of the English Court. By contrast, under this award it is the terms of the bunker supply contract that determine what system of law, in this case US maritime law, is to apply as regards what claims constitute a maritime lien against the vessel.

Insurance and P&I: life in Europe just got easier

Whatever you think of Brexit, there can be little doubt that English P&I Clubs have reaped a substantial dividend from it when it comes to jurisdiction. A discreet bottle or two will no doubt be cracked open as a result of Foxton J’s judgment today in QBE Europe SA v Generali España de Seguros y Reaseguros [2022] EWHC 2062 (Comm).

The facts will be entirely familiar to any P&I claims handler. The Angara, a small superyacht insured against P&I risks by QBE UK under a policy later transferred to QBE Europe, allegedly damaged an underwater cable linking Mallorca and Menorca to the tune of nearly $8 million. The cable owners’ underwriters Generali brought a subrogated claim in the Spanish courts against QBE, relying on a Spanish direct action statute (Arts. 465-467 of the 2014 Ley de Navegación Marítima). QBE pointed to a London arbitration clause requiring disputes between insurer and assured to be arbitrated in London, said that if Generali wanted to enforce the policy they had to take the rough with the smooth. This being a post-Brexit suit, they sought an ASI.

Generali resisted. They argued that they were enforcing a direct delictual liability under Spanish law, and that in any case since the arbitration clause merely referred to assured and insurer (and indeed the whole policy excluded any third party rights under the Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 1999) they were unaffected by it.

Pre-Brexit, QBE’s position would have been fairly hopeless: intra-EU ASIs were banned, and furthermore the effect of Assens Havn (Judicial cooperation in civil matters) [2017] EUECJ C-368/16 (noted here in this blog) would have largely pre-empted the matter in the Spanish courts.

But in this, one of the first post-Brexit P&I cases to come to the English courts, QBE won hands down. Solid first instance authority had extended the rule in The Angelic Grace [1995] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 87 (i.e. that very good reasons had to be shown for not granting an ASI to halt foreign proceedings brought in blatant breach of contract) to cases where the person suing was enforcing transferred rights, as where a subrogated insurer sought to take advantage of contractual provisions between its insured and the defendant. That line of decisions applied here: and Foxton J duly followed it, confirmed it and lengthened it by one.

He then asked whether, properly characterised, Generali’s suit was a tort claim or in substance a claim to piggy-back on the policy QBE had issued. His Lordship had no doubt that it was the latter. True, the Spanish direct action provisions disapplied certain limitations in the policy, such as pay to be paid provisions and a number of defences based on misconduct by the assured; but the matter had to be viewed in the round, and overall the cause of action arising under the 2014 Spanish law, being based on the existence of a policy and limited to sums assured under it, was clearly contract-based. It remained to deal with Generali’s further point based on the limited wording of the arbitration clause. Here his Lordship accepted that parties could provide that an arbitration clause in a contract did not apply to those suing under some derivative title, but said that much more would be required to demonstrate such an intent: the mere fact of reference to the original parties to the contract was not nearly enough.

And that was it: having failed to show any substantial reason why the ASI should not go, Generali were ordered to discontinue the Spanish proceedings.

What messages can P&I clubs and other insurers taker away? Three are worth referring to. One is that the enforcement of jurisdiction and arbitration clauses in a European context is now fairly straightforward. Another refers to the specific case of Spain, which altered its direct action statute in 2014: the QBE case has confirmed that under the new dispensation, as much as under the old, an attempt to use direct action as a means of getting at insurers abroad will continue to be be regarded as essentially an attempt to enforce the insurance contract. And third, judges in the UK are unlikely to be very receptive to attempts by claimants desperate to litigate at home to give arbitration or jurisdiction clauses an unnaturally narrow meaning.

Life, in short, has got a good deal easier for P&I interests. Now, where’s that bottle of cava?

The Prestige case. Victory for Spain in the CJEU.

Back in March we noted the reference to the CJEU of three questions regarding the application of Article 34 in the London P&I Club’s appeal against the recognition of the Spanish judgment against it in The Prestige case.

The High Court stayed proceedings and referred three questions to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling:

1. Is a judgment granted pursuant to s.66 of the Arbitration Act 1996 capable of constituting a relevant “judgment” of the Member State in which recognition is sought for the purposes of Article 34(3)?

2. Is a judgment falling outside the material scope of Regulation No 44/2001 by reason of the Article 1(2)(d) arbitration exception, capable of constituting a relevant “judgment” of the Member State in which recognition is sought for the purposes of Article 34(3)?

3. If Article 34(3) does not apply, can Art 34(1) be relied on as a ground of refusing recognition and enforcement of a judgment of another Member State as being contrary to domestic public policy on the grounds that it would violate the principle of res judicata by reason of a prior domestic arbitration award or a prior judgment entered in the terms of the award granted by the court of the Member State in which recognition is sought?

The Court of Appeal set aside the Judge’s order referring the questions to the CJEU. However, only the referring judge has jurisdiction to withdraw the reference. The Court of Appeal referred to Butcher J, pursuant to CPR 52.20(2)(b), the question of whether, in the light its judgment, he should withdraw the reference he made to the CJEU on 21 December 2020.

  The reference was not withdrawn and on Monday the CJEU gave its decision on the three questions referred [2022] EUECJ C-700/20.

The answer to the first two questions is that Article 34(3) of Regulation No 44/2001 must be interpreted as meaning that a judgment entered by a court of a Member State in the terms of an arbitral award does not constitute a ‘judgment’, within the meaning of that provision, where a judicial decision resulting in an outcome equivalent to the outcome of that award could not have been adopted by a court of that Member State without infringing the provisions and the fundamental objectives of that regulation.

The infringement would be two fold. First, as regards the relative effect of an arbitration clause included in an insurance contract which does not extend to claims against a victim of insured damage who bring a direct action against the insurer, in tort, delict or quasi-delict, before the courts for the place where the harmful event occurred or before the courts for the place where the victim is domiciled (as per the CJEU judgment of 13 July 2017 in Assens Havn, C 368/16, EU:C:2017:546).

Second, as regards the rules on lis pendens in Article 27 which favour the court first seised where there are parallel proceedings between the same parties, and does not require effective participation in the proceedings in question. The proceedings in Spain and in England involved the same parties and the same cause of action, and the proceedings were already pending in Spain on 16 January 2012 when the arbitration proceedings were commenced. It is for the court seised with a view to entering a judgment in the terms of an arbitral award to verify that the provisions and fundamental objectives of Regulation No 44/2001 have been complied with, in order to prevent a circumvention of those provisions and objectives, such as a circumvention consisting in the completion of arbitration proceedings in disregard of both the relative effect of an arbitration clause included in an insurance contract and the rules on lis pendens laid down in Article 27 of that regulation. No such verification took place before either the High Court or the Court of Appeal and neither court made a reference to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling under Article 267 of the CJEU.

The answer to the third question is that Article 34(1) of Regulation No 44/2001 must be interpreted as meaning that, in the event that Article 34(3) of that regulation does not apply to a judgment entered in the terms of an arbitral award, the recognition or enforcement of a judgment from another Member State cannot be refused as being contrary to public policy on the ground that it would disregard the force of res judicata acquired by the judgment entered in the terms of an arbitral award.

Collision litigation and the ASG forms: if you’re offered proper security, take it and don’t argue.

A nice little ship collision decision from the Court of Appeal this morning.

Suppose you’re a collision defendant, and the claimant has nabbed one of your other ships in port elsewhere. You want your vessel back and agree collision jurisdiction in England under ASG1 and ASG2. Relying on ASG2 (“Each party will provide security in respect of the other’s claim in a form reasonably satisfactory to the other”), you put up reasonable security from your P&I Club. Straightforward? Er … not quite. The other guy sucks on his teeth, says that even if your security is reasonable he doesn’t like it, and on second thoughts he prefers to say “thanks but no thanks” and hold on to your ship instead. You’d be miffed, wouldn’t you?

That was essentially what happened in M/V Pacific Pearl Co Ltd v Osios David Shipping Inc [2022] EWCA Civ 798. After the ASG1 / ASG2 agreement had been signed, collision defendants Pacific Pearl put up security to obtain the release of another vessel of their then languishing under arrest in South Africa. But to their dismay, collision claimants Osios David refused it on the (now admittedly bad) ground that it contained a sanctions clause. Put to sizeable expense as a result of their declining to lift the arrest, Pacific Pearl sued them for damages for breach of contract.

Sir Nigel Teare, having held the security good, slightly surprised the profession by going on to decide that even if it was it made no difference. The ASG2 obliged both sides to offer reasonable security, but said nothing about any obligation on either side to accept it; from which it followed that Osios David had been entirely within its rights to say it preferred to maintain the arrest after all. He therefore dismissed the action: see M/V Pacific Pearl Co. Ltd v Osios David Shipping Inc. [2021] EWHC 2808 (Comm).

This decision has now been reversed by the Court of Appeal, which read the ASG2 undertaking as requiring reasonable security to be both provided and, once tendered, taken up. This was, said Males LJ, implicit in the nature of the ASG1/ASG2 procedure. In place of a collision being litigated potentially worldwide, with arrest being threatened almost anywhere and the rights and wrongs of such arrests being thrashed out wherever they happened to take place, the whole matter should be dealt with by sober argument in London. In short, the whole object of the ASG2 undertaking attached to ASG1 was that such proceedings should, if at all possible, replace arrest rather than leaving it up o a claimant’s discretion.

Alternatively, he would also have been prepared to read the ASG2 undertaking to offer security as comporting, even if it did not say so explicitly, an implied obligation in the offeree to accept it. It did not matter which line one took: in either case, Osios David was in breach of contract and thus liable in damages.

This blog is loath ever to disagree with Sir Nigel Teare. But in this instance, it is our view that the Court of Appeal must be right. This both for the reasons given by Males LJ, and also because, in an era where it is almost invariably envisaged that insurers – whether P&I or H&M or both – will argue the toss over collisions and pick up the eventual tab, arrest should be seen very much as a last resort. Ships are better employed sailing the seven seas earning freight than being used as pawns in expensive transnational litigation; in so far as this decision will in future make this more likely to happen, we welcome it.

Financial Security in Cases of Abandonment: A Four-Month Limit for Unpaid Seafarers’ Wages?


The International Labour Conference (ILC) at its 103rd session approved the first group of amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006. The amendments were agreed by the Special Tripartite Committee at its first meeting at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva in April 2014 and entered into force in January 2017. The amendments concerned Regulations 2.5 and 4.2 which deal with the right to repatriation and the shipowners’ liability for sickness, injury or death of seafarers occurring in connection with their employment. In brief, the amendments inter alia set out requirements for shipowners to provide financial security to provide support for abandoned seafarers and to assure compensation in the event of death or long-term disability of seafarers due to occupational injury, illness or hazard. While an exhaustive overview of such amendments is beyond the scope of this blogpost, this blogpost aims to shed light into the operation of Standard A 2.5.2. of the MLC, 2006, as amended, paragraph 9 of which stipulates that the coverage provided by the financial security system when seafarers are abandoned by shipowners shall be limited to four months outstanding wages and four months of outstanding entitlements.


Let’s take a hypothetical case of seafarers being abandoned for 10 months. Seafarers contact the P&I Club for assistance, providing all the necessary documentation to substantiate their claim. The P&I Club’s claims handlers acknowledge receipt of the claim, check the validity of the financial security system, and investigate whether the shipowners have in fact failed to pay wages to seafarers. If the P&I is satisfied that the financial security system is valid and that the seafarers’ wages are outstanding, the P&I Club will pay four months of outstanding wages and take immediate action to repatriate the affected seafarers. Now, assuming that all the outstanding wages are of the same rate, no further questions arise. But what if the outstanding wages are not all of the same rate? If, for example, after the first four months, there has been a pay rise under the seafarers’ employment agreement.

In such cases, a further question can potentially arise as to how the limit of four months outstanding wages will be calculated. Should it be calculated based on the first four outstanding wages? Or is there a right to pick and choose which of such outstanding wages to form the basis for the calculation of such limit? If the latter is true, seafarers will be keen on calculating such limit based on the higher rate of such outstanding wages. On the other hand, the P&I Club will attempt to calculate such limit based on the lower rate of such outstanding wages. In the next section, this blogpost will explain what the relevant provisions of the MLC, 2006, as amended, provide.

The law

The relevant provision is Standard A 2.5.2 of the MLC, 2006, as amended. Paragraph 9 of this Standard states that:

‘Having regard to Regulations 2.2 and 2.5, assistance provided by the financial security system shall be sufficient to cover the following: (a) outstanding wages and other entitlements due from the shipowner to the seafarer under their employment agreement, the relevant collective bargaining agreement or the national law of the flag State, limited to four months of any such outstanding wages and four months of any such outstanding entitlements; […].’

If one looks at the wording of this provision, it can easily be ascertained that the actual text of the Convention does not give an answer to this question. Certainly, the use of the words ‘limited to four months of any such outstanding wages and four months of any such outstanding entitlements’ gives ample of space for arguments suggesting that the four months limit can be calculated by reference to any such outstanding wages, and not necessarily the first four outstanding wages.

However, it is not clear whether the specific wording was used with such flexibility in mind. The draft text of the amendments of Standard A 2.5.2. of the MLC, 2006, was based on the principles agreed at the Ninth Session (2-6 May 2009) of the Joint IMO/ILO Working Group on Liability and Compensation regarding Claims for Death, Personal Injury and Abandonment of Seafarers. During the negotiations, it was considered whether links should be drawn between paragraphs 2 and 9 of this Standard. Although this discussion took place in respect of the duration of the limitation period (it may be worth noting here that, initially, a limit of three months wages was suggested), it can still be instructive. In this respect, it was explained that the purpose of paragraph 2 is to identify when abandonment takes place, whereas paragraph 9 defines the scope of financial security to be provided in case of abandonment. Thus, it was concluded, it is necessary to allow for a time lapse between the recognition of the abandonment situation and the limitation of financial security.

Against this backdrop, it can be argued that the purpose of the said limit is to ensure that seafarers’ wages are fully paid up for the first four months since their abandonment. Bearing in mind that it is the seafarers who have to initiate the process with the P&I Clubs, it may also be worth noting here that such interpretation can assist with avoiding cases, although rare, where seafarers intentionally allow wages to continue to accrue.


In practice, it is highly unlikely that seafarers are owed only four months’ wages when they are abandoned by their shipowners. Thus, the possibility of different rates for wages or other entitlements cannot be precluded. Given the uncertainty of the wording of Standard A 2.5.2. paragraph 9 (a) of the MLC, 2006, amended, any conflicting arguments can easily be avoided if the purpose of this provision is clarified in future amendments.

The Prestige, 20 years on. CJEU reference may be withdrawn at last gasp.

The London Steam-Ship Owners’ Mutual Insurance Association Ltd v The Kingdom of Spain M/T “PRESTIGE” (No. 5) [2022] EWCA Civ 238 (01 March 2022),  concerns a reference to the CJEU by Butcher J, arising out of the longstanding litigation between Spain and the owners’ P&I Club in connection with the Prestige oil spill in 2002. The Club had appealed against an order registering the judgment of the Spanish Supreme Court on 28 May 2019. The appeal was fixed for a two-week trial from 2 December 2020 to determine (i) as a matter of law, whether the judgment entered by Hamblen J constituted a judgment within the meaning of Article 34(3) and, if not, whether that judgment and the arbitration award (and the res judicata to which they give rise as a matter of English law) could be relied upon and (ii) as a matter of fact and law, whether the Spanish Proceedings had breached the human rights of the defendants, including the Club.

Spain made an application seeking the reference of six questions to the CJEU (later adding a seventh) and invited  Butcher J to determine that application at the hearing of the appeal in order to be in a position to lodge any request with the CJEU before “the Brexit cut off”  with the end of the Implementation Period on 31 December 2020. On 21 December 2020 Butcher J then referred three issues to the CJEU.

“(1) Given the nature of the issues which the national court is required to determine in deciding whether to enter judgment in the terms of an award under Section 66 of the Arbitration Act 1996, is a judgment granted pursuant to that provision capable of constituting a relevant “judgment” of the Member State in which recognition is sought for the purposes of Article 34(3) of EC Regulation No 44/2001?

(2)  Given that a judgment entered in the terms of an award, such as a judgment under Section 66 of the Arbitration Act 1996, is a judgment falling outside the material scope of Regulation No 44/2001 by reason of the Article 1(2)(d) arbitration exception, is such a judgment capable of constituting a relevant “judgment” of the Member State in which recognition is sought for the purposes of Article 34(3) of the Regulation?

(3)  On the hypothesis that Article 34(3) of Regulation No 44/2001 does not apply, if recognition and enforcement of a judgment of another Member State would be contrary to domestic public policy on the grounds that it would violate the principle of res judicata by reason of a prior domestic arbitration award or a prior judgment entered in the terms of the award granted by the court of the Member State in which recognition is sought, is it permissible to rely on 34(1) of Regulation No 44/2001 as a ground of refusing recognition or enforcement or do Articles 34(3) and (4) of the Regulation provide the exhaustive grounds by which res judicata and/or irreconcilability can prevent recognition and enforcement of a Regulation judgment?”

At the time of making the reference Butcher J had not decided the Club’s human rights argument. That was decided against the Club in May 2021, after the end of the Implementation Period, and could not be referred to the CJEU. The reference, C-700/20, was heard by the CJEU on 31 January 2022 and the opinion of the Advocate General is expected on 5 May 2022, with the judgment of the CJEU to be delivered at any time thereafter.

The Club appealed the decision of Butcher J, and on 1 March 2022 the Court of Appeal held that Butcher J did not have the authority to refer the questions to the CJEU. The necessity test mandated in Art 267 of 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union would only be satisfied if the European law question is conclusive of the issue which the national court has to decide on a particular occasion in accordance with its national procedure. The judge’s discretion as to whether to make a reference only arises once the test of necessity has been satisfied.  That was not the case here as Butcher J had not decided the human rights policy issue raised by the Club. Unless and until that issue had been determined against the Club, the questions referred could not be said to be conclusive or even substantially determinative of the appeal. The questions could have been resolved entirely in Spain’s favour, yet the Club could have won on the human rights issue. Looking at previous CJEU authority in Cartesio Oktato es Szolgaltato bt (Case 210/06) [2009] Ch 354 it was clear that as a matter of national law a reference can be set aside on appeal.

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and set aside the Judge’s order referring the questions to the CJEU. However, only the referring judge has jurisdiction to withdraw the reference. The Court of Appeal referred to Butcher J, pursuant to CPR 52.20(2)(b), the question of whether, in the light its judgment, he should withdraw the reference he made to the CJEU on 21 December 2020. The Court of Appeal indicated that the hearing should take place as soon as possible, and in any event in time for any decision to withdraw the reference to be effective.