Clause 2 of Gencon 1994 first saw light of day in the 1922 charter and is the product of the thinking of an era that predates the Hague Rules when freedom of contract reigned supreme and carriers were able to include in contracts of carriage clauses that exempted them from liability for practically anything. Consequently, many people and certainly most charterers, now consider the clause to be completely out of touch with modern industry practices and current legislation. By way of contrast, and perhaps not surprisingly, many owners continue to value the wide protection that they believe it affords against liability. However, the reality is that the clause does not really meet the needs of either party and can give rise to some unforeseen and highly unwelcome surprises. Consequently, it is not really satisfactory for either the charterers or the shipowners.
It does not meet the charterers’ needs since it provides the shipowners with a very wide defence for cargo claims. In a nutshell, the Owners are not liable unless there is personal negligence on the part of the higher management of the company . Equally, it does not satisfy the shipowners because protection is limited to claims for physical loss or damage to the goods or for delay in delivering the goods, and the clause provides no defence for other claims relating to purely financial loss, such as a failure to load a full cargo or for delay in arriving at the loadport .
These deficiencies have been recognised for many years and the industry has tended to adopt a rough and ready solution by simply replacing Clause 2 with a Paramount Clause that is perceived to introduce greater balance in the form of the Hague or Hague-Visby Rules. However, the weakness of this “broad brush” solution has been repeatedly recognised by the English courts. For example, it has been said that:
“The courts have not found it easy to make sense of the Hague Rules in the context of a charter-party since clearly these rules were not designed to be incorporated in such a contract.”
“[A] very slapdash way of doing things.”
Consequently, the BIMCO sub-committee concluded that the insertion of a Paramount Clause was really no more than a “sticking plaster” solution in that it papered over some of the fault but failed to provide a satisfactory balanced solution.
A Paramount Clause clearly improves the charterers’ chances of making a recovery from the shipowners but makes the shipowners’ duty to exercise due diligence to make the ship seaworthy a continuing one that could potentially extend to all time “before” the commencement of the voyage, and which could, therefore, cover a very substantial time before the arrival of the ship at the loadport. It is also unclear whether the Rules provide the owners with protection in all jurisdictions against purely financial loss such as delay either in arriving at the loadport or in performing the laden voyage.
Therefore, the more balanced remedy favoured by the sub-committee was for the new clause 2 of Gencon 2022 to mirror the general approach of the Hague-Visby Rules and
(1) firstly, place on the shipowners duties that are the equivalent of the non-delegable ones that apply under the Hague-Visby Rules to exercise due diligence to provide a seaworthy ship and to properly and carefully care for the cargo, but to restrict the applicability of the seaworthiness obligation to the two points in time that matter for the charterers, namely, the loading of the cargo and the commencement of the laden voyage; and
(2) secondly, enable the shipowners to rely on all those rights, defences, immunities, time bars and limitations of liability that are available to a “Carrier” under the Hague-Visby Rules and to make such protection applicable to claims for loss, damage, delay or failure in performance of whatsoever nature. As is the case under the Hague-Visby Rules, these various rights, defences, immunities, time bars and limitations of liability fall into two categories: those that are applicable in any event regardless of breach, such as the time limit for claims under Art III Rule 6, and those that are available only if the shipowner has satisfied his obligations as to seaworthiness, such as those listed under Art IV Rule 2.
Because this new approach is substantially different from that which has been adopted in prior versions of Gencon, the sub-committee thought it prudent to circulate its proposals to the shipping industry before proceeding to a conclusion and received a more or less unanimous approval of its proposals. It is also noteworthy that the International Group of P&I Clubs has confirmed that the new clause 2 should not prejudice Club cover.
Finally, since one of the criticisms of Gencon 1994 is that, unlike many other charters, it does not include an exception clause that protects the rights of charterers, the sub-committee recommended that the new charter should include such a clause. There was some discussion as to whether the charter should include the new BIMCO Force Majeure Clause 2022. However, the sub-committee concluded that such clause was more suited to a time charter than a voyage charter and the industry consultation process supported that view. Consequently, it was decided to include a General Exception Clause of the type that is commonly seen in other voyage charters, and such a clause is now found in Clause 18 of Gencon 2022 thereby ensuring that it is a more balanced charter party.
 See, for example, the “Brabant” (1965) 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 546
 See, for example, the “Dominator” (1959) 1 Lloyd’s Rep 125 and the discussion in para 11.68 of Voyage Charters (3rd ed)
 Per Saville J in the “Standard Ardour” (1988) 2 Lloyd’s Rep 159
 Per Devlin J in the “Saxon Star” (1957) 2 Lloyd’s Rep 271
 See Art III Rule of the Hague/Hague-Visby Rules
Representing the Institute of International Shipping and Trade Law, Professor Richard Williams was a member of the BIMCO Sub-committee that has produced the new Gencon 2022.