Demurrage an exclusive remedy: the Court of Appeal gives judgment in The Eternal Bliss – Simon Rainey QC & Tom Bird

The Court of Appeal has today given judgment in The Eternal Bliss on the availability of general damages in addition to demurrage arising from delay. Allowing the appeal, the Court held that demurrage liquidates the whole of the damages arising from a charterer’s breach of charter in failing to complete cargo operations within the laytime.

The appeal raised a point on which there was no previous binding authority and which has, for almost 100 years, divided eminent judges and commentators. The leadig textbooks were split on the issue. 

Scrutton took the position that where the charterer’s breach causes the shipowner damage in addition to the detention of the vessel, losses can be recovered in addition to demurrage. But the authors of Voyage Charters said the better view was that the shipowner could only recover such losses if it could show a separate breach of contract (one other than the failure to load or discharge the cargo within the time allowed).

The dispute in this case arose from a voyage charter for the carriage of soybeans from Brazil to China. The charter was drawn up on an amended Norgrain form, which provided that demurrage, if incurred, was to be paid at a daily rate or pro rata.

After arriving at the discharge port, the vessel was kept at the anchorage for 31 days due to port congestion and lack of storage space ashore. Post discharge, it was said that the cargo exhibited significant moulding and caking throughout the stow in most of the cargo holds. The owners commenced arbitration against the charterers seeking to recover the cost of settling the cargo claim. The sole breach of contract relied on was the charterers’ failure to discharge within the laytime. The charterers contended that demurrage was the owners’ exclusive remedy for that breach.

The parties invited the Court to determine this point of law on assumed facts under s.45 of the Arbitration Act 1996. At first instance, Andrew Baker J found for the shipowner. He held that the cargo claim liabilities were a different type of loss to the detention of the vessel and that the shipowner could recover damages without proving a separate breach of contract. The 1991 decision in The Bonde (in which Potter J had reached the opposite conclusion) was, he said, wrongly decided.

Like the first instance judge, the Court of Appeal approached the point as one of principle, noting that distinguished judges have struggled, without success, to discern a ratio on this issue in Reidar v Arcos (the 1926 decision to which the long debate is often traced back). In delivering the Court’s judgment, Males LJ held that the case turned on the proper meaning of the term “demurrage” as it is used in the charterparty. The Court of Appeal concluded that, “in the absence of any contrary indication in a particular charterparty, demurrage liquidates the whole of the damages arising from a charterer’s breach of charter in failing to complete cargo operations within the laytime” (para 52).

This is a significant judgment on a major point of shipping law. In reversing the first instance decision, the Court of Appeal has given a much broader scope of the meaning of “demurrage” and treated it in much the same way as a standard liquidated damages clause, rather than limiting it to a particular type of loss. But this may not be the last word on the issue, which given the lively debate would benefit from clarification from the Supreme Court.

Simon Rainey QC and Tom Bird acted for the shipowner, instructed by Nick Austin and Mike Adamson of Reed Smith LLP.

One obligation, one remedy. Now it’s Eternal Bliss for charterers.


In K Line PTE Ltd v Priminds Shipping (HK) Co, Ltd (The Eternal Bliss) [2020] EWHC 2373 (Comm) the vessel was kept at the anchorage at Longkou in China for some 31 days due to port congestion and lack of storage space ashore for the cargo. In consequence when the cargo of soyabeans was discharged it exhibited substantial mould and caking. This led the receivers bringing a cargo claim against owners which they then, reasonably, settled and then sought to recover from voyage charterers by way of damages for breach of their obligation to discharge within the laydays. Charterers responded by saying that demurrage was the exclusive remedy for this breach.

At first instance, [2020] EWHC 2373 (Comm), Andrew Baker J heard a preliminary point of law on assumed facts as to whether demurrage was the sole remedy for this breach of the obligation to discharge within the laydays. He found that it was not. It was the remedy only where what owners were claiming was detention loss. Other consequences of the breach, in this case the sum owners paid to settle the receivers’ claim, were recoverable as unliquidated damages. In doing so he declined to follow the only clear decision on this issue, that of Potter J in The Bonde [1991] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 136 who had held that demurrage is liquidated damages for all the consequences of the charterer’s failure to load or unload within the laytime. Andrew Baker J also found that if demurrage was liquidated damages for all the consequences of the charterer’s delay at the discharge port, an indemnity would not be implied rendering the charterer liable for one of those consequences. Charterers appealed the finding on the extent of the demurrage remedy. Owners did not challenge the indemnity finding on appeal.

The Court of Appeal, EWCA/Civ/2021/1712, for whom Males LJ delivered the judgment of the Court, has today reversed that decision and concluded that in the absence of any contrary indication in a particular charterparty, demurrage liquidates the whole of the damages arising from a charterer’s breach of charter in failing to complete cargo operations within the laytime and not merely some of them. Accordingly, if a shipowner seeks to recover damages in addition to demurrage arising from delay, it must prove a breach of a separate obligation. The Court noted that The Bonde was the only clear decision on this point and that both the academic texts and judicial dicta were divided.

The Court of Appeal gave the following six reasons for its decision.

 “First, while it is possible for contracting parties to agree that a liquidated damages clause should liquidate only some of the damages arising from a particular breach, that strikes us as an unusual and surprising agreement for commercial people to make which, if intended, ought to be clearly stated. Such an agreement forfeits many of the benefits of a liquidated damages clause which, in general, provides valuable certainty and avoids dispute.” [53]

”Secondly, we accept that statements can be found in the case law to the effect that demurrage is intended to compensate a shipowner for the loss of prospective freight earnings suffered as a result of the charterer’s delay in completing cargo operations… No doubt this is the loss which is primarily contemplated and, in most cases, will be the only loss occurring. But that does not mean that this is all that demurrage is intended to do. The statements cited were made in cases where the present issue was not being considered.” [54]

Thirdly, if demurrage quantifies “the owner’s loss of use of the ship to earn freight by further employment in respect of delay to the ship after the expiry of laytime, nothing more”, as the judge held at [61] and again at [88], and does not apply to a different “type of loss” (as he put it at [45]), there will inevitably be disputes as to whether particular losses are of the “type” or “kind” covered by the demurrage clause.”[55]

“Fourthly, as Lord Justice Newey pointed out in argument, the cost of insurance is one of the normal running expenses which the shipowner has to bear. A standard expense for a shipowner is the cost of P&I cover which is intended to protect it against precisely the loss suffered in this case, that is to say liability to cargo claims, whether justified or not. Thus a shipowner will typically have insurance against cargo claims, while a charterer will not typically have insurance against liability for unliquidated damages resulting solely from a failure to complete cargo operations within the laytime. Rather, the charterer has protected itself from liability for failing to complete cargo operations within the laytime by stipulating for liquidated damages in the form of demurrage. Accordingly the consequence of the shipowner’s construction is to transfer the risk of unliquidated liability for cargo claims from the shipowner who has insured against it to the charterer who has not. That seems to us to disturb the balance of risk inherent in the parties’ contract.”[56]

“Fifthly, The Bonde has now stood for some 30 years, apparently without causing any dissatisfaction in the market.” [57]

“Sixthly, that reason would have less force if we agreed with the judge (at [127]) that the reasoning in The Bonde “is clearly faulty” or that the judgment “is explicable only if a non sequitur lies at its heart”. With respect, however, we do not accept the judge’s criticisms of The Bonde.” [58]

The Court of Appeal then noted that allowing the appeal would produce clarity and certainty, while leaving it open to individual parties or to industry bodies to stipulate for a different result if they wished to do so.

It will be interesting to see if owners now try to draft clauses stating expressly that demurrage only covers certain stated categories of loss – and whether charterers accept that.

It will also be interesting to see whether the case eventually ends up before the Supreme Court.

Additional freight claim. Effect of change of nominated discharge port/s by voyage charterers.

In London Arbitration 20/21 a shipowner claimed additional freight for discharge ports nominated by the voyage charterer who then changed the nomination to discharge ports which were not subject to additional freight. The vessel was chartered to carry 60,000 mt bulk soya to ½ ports in China with the sole/1st disport to be declared 10 days prior to the vessel passing Singapore. The charterers nominate Zhoushan for lightening and Taixing for discharge of the balance of the cargo. The charter provided for $1.75 per mt extra on entire cargo if Taixing was the nominated discharge port. Thirteen days later charterer changed the discharge port to Tianjin. Owners sent charterers an invoice for Zhoushan and Taixing, and charterers insisted on Tianjin. Eventually the disputed extra freight was paid into an escrow account and the vessel discharged at Tianjin.

The tribunal held that in accordance with established authorities culminating with The Jasmine B [1992] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 39 the initial declaration of the discharge ports made by charterers had the effect of treating those ports as have been written into the charter from the outset. Charterers assumed the risk of any change of nomination subsequently made by their sub-contractors. The nomination provision was a typically worded nomination provision and nothing in it was special in permitting a change of nomination.

The fact that the owners only proceeded to Tianjin under protested, confirmed by the terms of the escrow agreement, was fatal to all charterer’s arguments as to variation, waiver and estoppel. Nor had owners been unjustly enriched at charterer’s expense because the voyage for which additional freight was contemplated was never performed. Nothing in the charter obliged owners to relinquish the freight for the contractual voyage if in the event that voyage was not performed. Owners were accordingly entitled to the freight payable on the original nomination which was held in the escrow account.

Demurrage time bar clause. What is the time for “completion of discharge”?

In Euronav NV v Repsol Trading SA (mt Maria) [2021] EWHC 2565 (Comm) Henshaw J was faced with a dispute between owners and charterers as to whether a demurrage claim was barred by clause 15(3) of the Shellvoy 6 form, which requires notification to be made of a demurrage claim “within 30 days after completion of discharge” failing which the claim becomes time-barred. The Vessel discharged at Long Beach and disconnected hoses at 21:54 local time (PST – Pacific Standard Time) on 24 December 2019, as noted in the Statement of Facts and laytime statement. On 24 January the Charterers received owners’ brokers an email stating that: “According to owners, demurrage has incurred on above [subject] voyage. Hence, please take this email as demurrage notice”.

Whether owners’ notification was within the thirty days after completion of discharge depended on which time zone was used in respect of ‘completion of discharge’. It was agreed that when computing a period of time within which a certain thing must be done, the first day is not ordinarily counted and that the date of discharge – whichever date it was – was ‘day 0’ and not counted as one of the 30 days within which notification had to be given. In addition ‘day’, absent any contrary indication meant a calendar day, i.e. the period of twenty-four hours beginning and ending at midnight, and not merely a period of twenty-four consecutive hours.

If as charterers’ argued, one took local time in California, where discharge took place, day one would be 25 December and the claim submitted on 24 January would be out of time and time-barred. Owners argued that for three alternatives which would give the date of completion on 25 December, and day one on 26 December:   (a) the time zone of the recipient of the required notice (here, Spanish time, that of Charterers), (b) the time zone of the giver of the required notice (here, Belgian time, that of Owners) or (c) GMT, given that the contract applied English law?  On each of these approaches the claim would not be time-barred.

Henshaw J held that the date of completion of discharge is to be determined applying local time at the place of discharge for the following reasons [61]:

“i)                   The ordinary and natural approach is to allocate to an event (e.g. a historical event, or a person’s birth, marriage or death) the date that was current in the place where the event occurred.

ii)                 That approach gains some support from the authorities and commentary referred to in §§ 30-35 above.

iii)               The discharge of cargo from a vessel is a tangible physical event, which occurs at a specific location and in a particular time zone.  It will in the ordinary course be recorded in documents, such as the Statement of Facts and any laytime statement, as having occurred at the time and date current applying local time.  A contracting party would naturally expect the date stated in such documents to be the date of completion of discharge for contractual purposes.

iv)               The date of discharge of the cargo is significant not only for the purpose of notification of demurrage claims, but also for other purposes.  It represents the end of the contractual service to the shipper, and ends the running of laytime or demurrage.  Under clause 15(3) itself it is also the start date for the separate 90-day period for service of supporting documents.  It is generally the starting point for the time limit under the Hague-Visby rules for cargo claims.  It would be unnatural and illogical either (a) for there to be more than one date of discharge, used for different purposes, or (b) for the date of discharge pursuant to (say) the Hague-Visby rules to be determined by something as potentially arbitrary and non-transparent as the place of receipt (or, even, potential receipt) of a notice of any demurrage claim.  Whether the date of delivery for Hague-Visby purposes is determined using local time at the place of discharge (which I am inclined to consider the obvious approach) or using the relevant court’s own time zone (as was mooted during submissions but appears to me less attractive), Owners’ case creates the prospect of the same event being differently dated for different purposes.

v)                  The use of local time at the place of discharge gives rise to a single, clear and easily ascertainable date and time of completion of discharge.  It tends to promote certainty and reduce the risk of confusion.

vi)               It is inherent in a date based system that different time zones may apply to the events which define the start and end of the period, if they are in different countries.

vii)             The point that it is not essential to apply the same time zone to the beginning and end of the 30 day period under clause 15(3) is illustrated by a case where daylight saving time changes during the period.  If, for example, discharge is completed on a particular day in the UK, and a notice is served at half past midnight on day 31, the notice would be out of time even if the clocks had gone forward an hour to GMT + 1 in the meantime (so that half past midnight was 11.30pm on day 30 GMT).  

viii)           If it were appropriate to determine both dates using a single time zone, it would be more logical for that to be the time zone of the place of discharge.  As already noted, the completion of discharge is a significant physical event, with a natural date, usually recorded in contemporaneous documents, and with several consequences under the contracts relating to the voyage.

ix)               The considerations discussed in section (D) above give no compelling or sufficient to depart from the natural approach.

x)                  There is no ambiguity in clause 15(3) that might justify a contra proferentem interpretation.”

Time charter trip. Quantifying shortfall of bunkers remaining on board on redelivery.

In London Arbitration 19/21 the bunker clause in a trip time charter from the Far East to Egypt provided:

“8. BUNKER CLAUSE:

BOD about 830 metric ton IFO 380 CST about 78 metric ton LSMGO.

Prices both ends: USD425 PMT for IFO 380 and USD685 PMT for LSMGO. 

BOR about same as BOD of IFO and BOR as onboard of LSMGO.”

The vessel was delivered with 888.56 mt of IFO on board and redelivered with 686.07 mt. The owners were prepared to allow a margin of 2 per cent for the term “about” but submitted that even on that basis the charterers had redelivered with a shortfall of 184.7188 mt of IFO. They said that the prevailing market price of IFO at the place of redelivery in Egypt was US$510 per mt, and claimed the difference between that price and the charterparty price of US$425 per mt on the shortfall, a total of US$15,701.10.

The Tribunal  held that the word ‘about’ without further clarification imported a 5 percent margin for both delivery and redelivery. Owners argued that this was not the case on redelivery because the charterers had the opportunity of supplying further bunkers to make up the shortfall but deliberately decided not to do so. Although the Tribunal could see the attraction of the argument it rejected it as adding such a gloss to the usual understanding of the term ‘about’ would cause uncertainty and leave the parties in the dark as to the nature and extent of their obligations.

The Tribunal then held that the charter prices on redelivery only applied to legitimate quantities on delivery and redelivery and not to any quantities as submitted by the charterers. The appropriate comparison to be made was between the charterparty price and prevailing market price at the place of redelivery. Speculation as to where and at what price the owners might have taken on bunkers after redelivery had to be discounted as a matter of an independent commercial decision of the owners after redelivery. 

The Tribunal rejected Charterer’s argument that they had requested the owners to load more bunkers at Singapore but were told that the vessel did not have sufficient tank capacity to load the quantity proposed by the charterers. The charterers had not then taken on additional bunkers in Egypt because the supply of bunkers there was unreliable both in terms of service and quality. There was no warranty as to the bunker capacity of the vessel and/or its ability to take on board any quantity of bunkers required by the charterers at any time at Singapore, or elsewhere, during the course of the trip.

Repudiation of time charter. Owners’ claim for summary judgment for damages.

The Marquessa (Giorgis Oil Trading Ltd v AG Shipping & Energy PTE Ltd) [2021] EWHC 2319 (Comm) involved repudiation of a time charter on Shelltime 4 form (as amended). Following repeated non-payment of instalments of hire, owners eventually accepted this conduct as Charterers’ repudiation and terminated the charter.  The vessel was then carrying a cargo, loaded on the orders of Charterers, for sub-sub-charterers, and having exercised a lien, as an act of mitigation, Owners agreed with Voyage Charterers to complete the voyage in exchange for payments to escrow.

 Owners applied for summary  judgment in respect of:

i)  unpaid hire accrued due prior to the termination of the Charterparty (the “Pre-Termination Claim”), and,

ii) damages consequent upon Owners’ termination of the Charterparty on the basis of Charterers’ repudiation or renunciation (the “Post-Termination Claim”), but excluding damages in respect of the period after the discharge of Charterers’ cargo from the Vessel.

Henshaw J rejected Charterers’ assertion that Owners had failed to allow for off-hire periods, presumably for the periods during which Owners suspended performance. Suspension of performance was permitted by the following clause in the charter.

“… failing the punctual and regular payment of hire …  [Owners] shall be at liberty to at any time withhold the performance of any and all of their obligations hereunder … and hire shall continue to accrue …”

Owners’ right to suspend performance was not a penalty. Nor was it arguable that Owner’s exercise of the right to suspend performance was an unlawful exercise of a contractual discretion.  The nature of the right is such that owners could reasonably have regard purely to their own commercial interests.  In any event, the suspension of performance in the present case was not arguably irrational, arbitrary, or capricious. Neither were Owners obliged to mitigate. Their claim was for liquidated sums due under the contract, not damages for breach. Further, any obligation to mitigate did not require them to refrain, while the Charterparty remained on foot, from exercising their right to suspend performance.  In any event, Owners did subsequently take reasonable steps to mitigate by means of their arrangement with the Voyage Charterers.

Henshaw J agreed that by the time Owners treated the Charterparty as having come to an end by reason of Charterers’ breaches a reasonable owner would have concluded from Charterers’ conduct that they would not pay hire punctually in advance as required by the Charterparty:

i) Charterers had failed to pay hire from the outset, and this continued over the ensuing months. 

ii) At most, Charterers expressed a willingness to perform, but repeatedly proved unable or unwilling to do so. 

iii) Charterers’ conduct in the present case deprived Owners of “substantially the whole benefit” of the Charterparty, and they were seeking to hold Owners to an arrangement “radically different” from that which had been agreed. 

It was not arguable, that Owners themselves were in repudiatory breach, for suspending performance and then reaching an agreement with Voyage Charterers: The charter entitled Owners to suspend performance, and the arrangement with the Voyage Charterers was a lawful step in mitigation, realising value from the exercise of Owners’ lien, and in any event post-dated the contract having come to an end upon their acceptance of Charterers’ breaches.

When the Charterparty came to an end in November 2020, the Vessel was laden with cargo and until discharge, no replacement charterparty at the current market rate was possible, and therefore there was no scope for entering into a mitigation charterparty. Accordingly damages ran at the charter rate up until discharge, from which Owners gave credit for address commission, Charterers’ payments and relevant sums received from the Voyage Charterers.  Credit was also given credit for the value of bunkers remaining on board at the date of discharge at the contractual rate in the absence of any evidence from Charterers as to the actual sums paid for the bunkers.

The correct date for assessing the credit for bunkers remaining on board was that of discharge on completion of the voyage for which Charterers had given orders, and not the date of termination. Clause 15 of the Shelltime 4 form (as amended) provides that “… Owners shall on redelivery (whether it occurs at the end of the charter or on the earlier termination of this charter) accept and pay for all bunkers on board …”.

The relevant date must, logically, be the date of actual redelivery, even if it was in fact later than the (natural) end of the charter or the date on which it was contractually brought to an end.  In any event, even if clause 15 were not construed in that way, owners would be still entitled to recover the bunkers used to complete Charterers’ voyage on a different basis, viz as damages or in bailment – as in The Kos [2012] UKSC 17.

Accordingly, Henshaw J found that Owners were entitled to summary judgment for a sum equivalent to hire from when they accepted Charterer’s repudiation to the date of discharge on the laden voyage in progress at that date, less credit for commission and bunkers remaining on board at the latter date.

Incorporation of Bulk Terminal Terms into Charter. Effect on Laytime and Demurrage Regime.

In London Arbitration 15/21 the Tribunal considered the effect, if any, of the incorporation into the fixture of what were referred to as UBT (United Bulk Terminal) Rules, which were rules imposed contractually by the berth operators on users of the berth. These provided:

 “2.2 NOTICE OF READINESS

In the case of an Ocean Vessel to be loaded, issuance of the Notice of Readiness shall mean that the Ocean Vessel (1) has obtained all requisite governmental approvals, inspections and clearances, including, but not limited to, those required by the US Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service; and (2) is located at the Berth or Closest Available Anchorage (as defined in section 2.5 below); and (3) is ready and suitable in all respects to receive the Cargo in all holds to be loaded; and (4) has confirmed with the Terminal that the Cargo is to be loaded to Vessel is in storage at the Terminal or, if Cargo is to be direct transferred, is in barges in the Terminal’s fleet; and (5) has determined that the Cargo is in a condition satisfactory to the Vessel Party and all regulatory authorities for shipment. Notice of Readiness shall be considered invalid unless the aforementioned five conditions are met…”

By contrast the recap setting out the fixture provided

“- SHOULD THE BERTH BE OCCUPIED OR SHOULD THE VESSEL BE PREVENTED FROM PROCEEDING TO THE BERTH AFTER HER ARRIVAL AT OR OFF THE PORT NOTICE OF READINESS MAY BE TENDERED BY TELEX, FAX WWWW (an acronym for “wibon, wccon, wifpon, wipon”, ie “whether in berth or not, whether customs cleared or not, whether in free pratique or not, whether in port or not”).

– AT BOTH ENDS PORT LAYTIME SHALL COMMENCE TO  COUNT 12 HRS AFTER VALID NOR IS TENDERED UNLESS OPERATIONS SOONER COMMENCED.  IN CASE SOONER COMMENCED, ACTUAL TIME USED TO COUNT.”

Clause 6 of the charter in effect confirmed what was agreed in the recap.

Owners gave notice of readiness at the port of Davant on the Mississippi on arrival at the South West Anchorage, having to wait there due to congestion at the berths. The tribunal held that there was no requirement in the contract for the vessel to have passed any inspections, etc before giving a valid notice of readiness. Nor was there any requirement in the contract that notice be accepted by the charterers or their agents. Similarly it contained no requirement that notice be given within the laycan.

Under English law was that where an incorporated document conflicted with the terms of the primary agreement entered into by parties, the conflicting terms had to give way to those in that primary agreement with which they were inconsistent, as had been held in a similar case The Linardos [1994] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 28.

Accordingly the aspects of the UBT Rules relied on by the charterers conflicted with the terms of the fundamental agreement as found in the recap, and reinforced by the incorporated charter terms. As in The Linardos, the UBT Rules were designed to govern contractual relationships between the terminal and users of the berth so, when reading them into a charterparty, great caution had to be exercised in interpreting them in the charterparty context so as to ensure that only those provisions in the Rules that were truly relevant to and compatible with the charter agreement were given effect to.

In the light of the charter provisions agreed in the recap, the vessel was entitled to give notice of readiness at the Southwest Pass as that was the nearest available anchorage off the port at the time she arrived there, and the UBT Rules did not affect that position. Accordingly the owners’ demurrage claim succeeded, and they would be awarded the claimed amount of US$109,495.83 plus interest and costs.

Charterers orders to wait off berth not an extra contractual service; time falls within the laytime and demurrage regime.

London Arbitration 14-21 involved a claim by owners that time spent waiting on charterer’s orders following tender of NOR at the discharge port was a non-contractual service which should be remunerated by way of quantum meruit. This would be at the demurrage rate and would include bunkers consumed while waiting.

The Tribunal rejected the claim. Laytime had already started to run when the charterers ordered the vessel to wait off berth. This was not a non-contractual order as in The Saronikos [1986] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 277 and Glencore Energy UK Ltd v OMV Supply & Trading Ltd [2018] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 223. The charterers were entitled to use the whole of the agreed laytime, whether  by holding the ship off the berth, or by berthing her and not working her for some time, or by berthing her and working her immediately. Once laytime had started to count the charterers were entitled to use it in full. Even if owners had been right, they would not have been entitled to anything for bunker consumption. Assuming the demurrage rate was to be taken as a genuine pre-estimate of damages for detention, it had to follow that running expenses, including bunker costs, were to be taken as included in the agreed rate.

Smart claims for bill of lading freight by owners.

If an owner’s bill of lading incorporates the freight provisions of a time charterer’s voyage charter, can owners intervene to require payment of the freight to themselves rather than to the time charterer? That was the issue recently before Butcher J in Alpha Marine Corp v Minmetals Logistics Zhejiang Co Ltd (MV Smart) [2021] EWHC 1157 (Comm) (05 May 2021).


Claim were made by owners against charterers in respect of the loss of the vessel for breach of the safe port warranty. the Tribunal found that the Charterers had provided a safe port warranty in respect of Richards Bay and that there were some shortcomings in the running of the port. However, the Master had been negligent in his handling of the Vessel and it was this that caused the grounding of the Vessel. Owners had issued bills of lading which stated ‘freight as per charter’.  After the vessel was lost the Owners gave notice to the bill of lading holder, the voyage charterer to pay full freight to them. At that time only a sum in respect of bunkers was due to Owners.  Charterers claimed damages in respect of losses sustained as a result of owners’ intervention in respect of freight due under the bill of lading through the incorporation of the terms of the voyage charter. They also claimed in tort on the basis of procuring breach of contract by the voyage charterer and/or knowingly and/or unlawfully interfering with the Voyage Charter. The Tribunal found that Owners were not entitled to revoke Charterers’ right to obtain the bill of lading freight or to direct it be paid to the Owners. This is because the Charterparty contained an implied obligation that Owners would not revoke unless hire and/or sums were due to them under the Charterparty

On appeal, Butcher J considered three possible terms constraining owners’ exercise of their rights to intervene to claim freight under the bill of lading. First, the “all freight” implied term whereby if the Charterers were in default of their obligations under the Charterparty, then the Owners would be entitled to collect the entirety of the freight, even if it exceeded the amount of the Owners’ claim against the Charterers arising out of their default. Second, “All Freight (Sum Identified) Implied Term”) by which the Owners were not entitled to revoke the Charterers’ authority to collect any freight unless a sum was due to the Owners under the Charterparty and the relevant sum was identified at the time of any revocation of the Charterers’ authority; and (3) the “Dollar for Dollar” Implied Term whereby the Owners were only entitled, in the event of a default by the Charterers, to revoke the Charterers’ authority to collect freight in respect to an amount up to, but no more than, the amount due from the Charterers under the Charterparty.

Butcher J rejected the implication of any term.  Owners’ duty to account to the charterer for any excess in the amount of freight collected over the amount due under the charterparty meant that the present charterparty, or other time charters in similar form, did not lack commercial or practical coherence without an implied term restricting the owners’ right to intervene.  If owners claimed freight in excess of sums due to them under the time charter the owners would have to account for the balance to the time charterers, and that was the charterers’ protection.

The Award was set aside insofar as it awarded damages for breach of the implied term found by the Tribunal; and the matter was remitted to the Tribunal for reconsideration of the Charterers’ freight counterclaim on the alternative Tortious Basis, having regard to this judgment.

Deadfreight. Charterer’s nominated berth frustrates owner’s option as to quantity to load.

In London Arbitration 7/21 a vessel was chartered to carry coal. The owners were given the option to load between 27,000 and 33,000 mt of cargo, and the charterers were bound to provide a safe port/berth at the specified terminal. The owners exercised their option to load 33,000 mt

Prior to the fixture being concluded the owners had emailed the charterers’ agents at the loading port and had been advised that the maximum draft at the terminal was in excess of 13 m. The agents indicated that the vessel would berth at a specified berth where the vessel would have had no problem in loading 33,000 mt.

Charterers ordered vessel to load at a different berth where there was a lower maximum sailing draft and failed to change the berth nomination. There was a shortfall of 1,590 mt of cargo.

The tribunal held that the owners were entitled to exercise their option as to cargo quantity unfettered, and the charterers were bound to load whatever amount the owners opted for up to 33,000 mt. If, by their choice of berth, the charterers prevented the vessel from loading that quantity, they put themselves in breach of that obligation. By ordering the vessel to a berth where the draft was so limited as to stop the vessel loading 33,000 mt, the charterers frustrated the exercise of the owners’ option. Charterers were liable to owners in damages for the shortfall in cargo loaded