‘Properly due’ in General Average Guarantee. Guarantor’s reliance on Rule D of YAR 1974.

 

 

The BSLE Sunrise [2019] EWHC 2860 (Comm) involved a preliminary  issue as to whether the issuer of the GA guarantee can raise a defence under Rule D of YAR 1974 as to their liability under the GA guarantee.

Following a grounding off Valencia in 2012, owners incurred expenses in attempting to refloat vessel and in conducting temporary repairs. General Average Bonds and General Average Guarantees were issued. Each GA bond provided

“In consideration of the delivery to us or our order, on payment of the freight due, of the goods noted above we agree to pay the proper proportion of any … general average

… which may hereafter be ascertained to be properly and legally due from the goods or the shippers or owners thereof …”

Each of the GA guarantees, in the wording approved by the Association of Average Adjusters and the Institute of London Underwriters, provided:

“In consideration of the delivery in due course of the goods specified below to the consignees thereof without collection of a deposit, we the undersigned insurers, hereby undertake to pay to the ship owners … on behalf of the various parties to the adventure as their interest may appear any contributions to General Average … which may hereafter be ascertained to be properly due in respect of the said goods.

Cargo interests maintained that the grounding was due to owners’ breach of their obligation of seaworthiness under art III.1 of the Hague/Hague-Visby Rules which were incorporated into each of the bills of lading, and accordingly under Rule D of YAR 1974 which was incorporated into those contracts, no general average was due from them.

Judge Pelling QC held that this defence also applied in respect of the general average guarantees. The wording in the bonds and the guarantees should be construed in the same word and that the word “due” when applied to a monetary obligation meant that it is legally owing or payable. No sum becomes legally due or payable “ … on behalf of the various parties to the adventure as their interest may appear …” by way of contribution to general average unless and until it has been decided whether the Rule D defence  succeeds or fails. The inclusion of the word “properly” served to put the point beyond doubt.

The Maersk Neuchâtel, [2014] EWHC1643 (Comm); [2014] 2 Lloyds Rep 377 on which owners relied contained different wording whereby the undertaking was to pay “ … on behalf of the various parties to the adventure as their interest may appear …” the GA “… which may hereafter be ascertained to be properly due in respect of the said goods”. This was construed as requiring the charterer to pay the sum ascertained to be due in the adjustment, with the omission of the words in the standard bond such as ‘is payable’ and ‘properly due’, making the contract akin to an on-demand guarantee, payment being due upon here certification.

Accordingly the Preliminary Issue was resolved in favour of the guarantors. Nothing was payable under the GA guarantees issued by them if the loss was caused by the owner’s actionable default or until that issue has been resolved.

Brexit. Here’s the new deal – same as the old deal?

 

Mr Johnson yesterday concluded a new withdrawal agreement with the EU which will be put before Parliament on Saturday, after the rugby.

 

The main changes from Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement are that under the new backstop, that would come into effect on 1.1.2021 if a new agreement with the EU has not been concluded by then, there would be customs border between Eire and Northern Ireland but in practice customs checks on goods going into the island of Ireland, would take place on the UK mainland – not, as has been suggested, in the Irish Sea. Northern Ireland would also be subject to the rules of the internal market as regards goods and agriculture. Stormont will be able to vote on the continuance of this backstop four years after the end of the transition period and should it vote against them these provisions would lose force two years later during which time the “joint committee” would make recommendations to the UK and EU on “necessary measures”. In the absence of a sitting Northern Ireland Assembly at that time the UK would make alternative arrangements to provide for the necessary vote.

If the Northern Irish Assembly votes against the provisions, they would lose force two years later during which time the “joint committee” would make recommendations to the UK and EU on “necessary measures”.

 

There are changes to the political declaration, too. The parties are committed to concluding a free trade agreement which provides for regulatory autonomy in para 18 as follows.

“The Parties will retain their autonomy and the ability to regulate economic activity according to the levels of protection each deems appropriate in order to achieve legitimate public policy objectives such as public health, animal health and welfare, social services, public education, safety, the environment including climate change, public morals, social or consumer protection, privacy and data protection, and promotion and protection of cultural diversity. The economic partnership will recognise that sustainable development is an overarching objective of the Parties. The economic partnership will also provide for appropriate general exceptions, including in relation to security.”

Para 21 contemplates “free trade area, combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition, as set out in Section XIV of this Part.”

Shortly afterwards there follows one of those exceptions.

 

  1. While preserving regulatory autonomy, the Parties will put in place provisions to promote regulatory approaches that are transparent, efficient, promote avoidance of unnecessary barriers to trade in goods and are compatible to the extent possible. Disciplines on technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) should build on and go beyond the respective WTO agreements. Specifically, the TBT disciplines should set out common principles in the fields of standardisation, technical regulations, conformity assessment, accreditation, market surveillance, metrology and labelling. The Parties should treat one another as single entities as regards SPS measures, including for certification purposes, and recognise regionalisation on the basis of appropriate epidemiological information provided by the exporting party.

And another is to be found in section XIV

“To that end, the Parties should uphold the common high standards applicable in the Union and the United Kingdom at the end of the transition period in the areas of state aid, competition, social and employment standards, environment, climate change, and relevant tax matters….”

The parties commit to “maintain environmental, social and employment standards at the current high levels provided by the existing common standards…. [and] should rely on appropriate and relevant Union and international standards, and include appropriate mechanisms to ensure effective implementation domestically, enforcement and dispute settlement. The future relationship should also promote adherence to and effective implementation of relevant internationally agreed principles and rules in these domains, including the Paris Agreement.”

 

But it is not all about goods. Paragraph 25 provides “The Parties should conclude ambitious, comprehensive and balanced arrangements on trade in services and investment in services and non-services sectors, respecting each Party’s right to regulate. The Parties should aim to deliver a level of liberalisation in trade in services well beyond the Parties’ World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments and building on recent Union Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).” This will aim for substantial sectoral coverage in line with GATT article 5.

Maritime transport is mentioned at para which provides “The future relationship should facilitate cooperation on maritime safety and security, including exchange of information between the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the United Kingdom Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), consistent with the United Kingdom’s status as a third country.” There is no mention of the Rotterdam Rules.

There would be an independent arbitration process to deal with disputes under the new agreement but: “[131] The Parties indicate that should a dispute raise a question of interpretation of provisions or concepts of Union law, which may also be indicated by either Party, the arbitration panel should refer the question to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) as the sole arbiter of Union law, for a binding ruling as regards the interpretation of Union law. Conversely, there should be no reference to the CJEU where a dispute does not raise such a question.”

The new WA will have to obtain the approval of Parliament on Saturday, otherwise Mr Johnson will be required by law to seek an extension to 31 January under art.50.  If the necessary letter is not sent, the Scottish Court of Session will reconvene on October 21 to decide whether it will sign a letter to the EU on Mr Johnson’s behalf.

In the meantime, expect a lot of phone calls by Mr Johnson to ‘our friends in the North’. Labour votes, or abstentions, are likely to be critical to getting the new deal through.

 

Different treatment of NOR for cancellation and for laytime purposes. Fine, if that’s what the parties agree.

 

The “strange result” condemned by Roskill J. in The Madeleine [1967] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 224, namely, that a notice of readiness may be valid for one purpose (avoiding the option to cancel) but invalid for another purpose (the commencement of laytime), can arise if the parties choose to agree upon different regimes. This is what happened in Bilgent Shipping PTE Ltd.and ADM International SARL v. Oldendorff Carriers (The Alpha Harmony) [2019] EWHC 2522 (Comm) – a tale of a chain of two voyage charters, with the same provisions for tender of NOR to commence laytime but with different cancellation clauses. The laycan period under both initially ended on 31 May 2015 but was narrowed to end on 10 May 2015. The vessel tendered notice of readiness by email at 0704 on 10 May 2015 which was a Sunday. The email stated that the vessel had arrived at 0250 – outside normal working hours. Both charters provided for notice of readiness to be delivered between 0800 and 1700 on a weekday and between 0800 and 1100 on a Saturday, with laytime to commence at 0800 on the next working day after a valid notice of readiness had been tendered.  No express provision was made for delivery of a notice of readiness on a Sunday. However, the head charter contained an additional clause dealing with service of NOR that made no reference to service within working hours.

The vessel tendered notice of readiness by email at 0704 on  Sunday10 May 2015. The email stated that the vessel had arrived at 0250. Sub charterers cancelled at 2047 on Sunday 10 May 2015 and head charters followed suit at 0555 on Monday 11 May 2015. The question was whether the cancellations were lawful in circumstances where, although notice of readiness had been tendered before the relevant time on the cancelling date, it had not been tendered during the permitted hours. The arbitration panel in both arbitrations held that the cancellations were not valid.

Teare J allowed the appeal under the sub charter, but dismissed that under the head charter.

Under the sub charter cl16, the cancellation clause  provided: “Should the Notice of Readiness at loading port not be delivered as per Clause 14 by twelve o’clock noon on the 31st day of May 2015, the Charterers or their Agents shall at said hour and at any time thereafter, but not later than the presentation of Notice of Readiness together with the required certificates at said office, have the option of cancelling this Charter Party…” Teare J held that  the words “as per clause 14” meant that the Notice of Readiness must be in accordance with the requirements of clause 14 which required NOR to be served within stated office hours.

By contrast the cancellation clause in the head charter cl.4 provided as follows:

“… Should the vessel’s notice of readiness not be tendered and accepted as per Clause 17 before 2359 on the 30th/31st day of April/May of 2015, the Charterers or their Agents shall at any time thereafter, but not later than one hour after the notice of readiness is tendered, have the option of cancelling this Charterparty. … ”

There were two charter provisions relating to NOR. Clause 17 provided:

“(a) Notice of readiness and Commencement of Laytime See also Clause 70

Notice of vessel’s readiness to load and/or discharge at the first or sole loading and/or discharging port, shall be delivered in writing or by cable/telex/email to Charterers/Receivers (or their Agents). See also Clause 70. Such notice of readiness shall be delivered when vessel is in the loading or discharging port and is in all respects ready to load/discharge in case loading/discharging berth is occupied vessel to be allowed to tender Notice of readiness whether in port or not, whether in berth or not, whether customs cleared to not, whether in free pratique or not.”

Cl.70 contained provisions regarding the start of laytime and the requirement as to service of NOR within stated.

For cancellation purposes, it was cl.17 that was the relevant clause dealing with NOR and under that clause there was no time restriction on the service of NOR. The words in cl.17 “See also Clause 70”, were not sufficient to incorporate in clause 17, and hence in clause 4, the office hours requirement for the delivery of a notice of readiness. The combined effect of clauses 4 and 17 as amended showed, for the purposes of the cancelling clause, that there was no requirement that the notice of readiness be delivered within office hours. Accordingly, for cancellation purposes NOR had been served before the cancelling deadline of 2359 on 10 May 2015 and the head charterers had no option to cancel the charter.

Something for the New Year. INCOTERMS 2020 are coming.

INCOTERMS 2010 will be updated to INCOTERMS 2020 which comes into effect on 1 January 2020. The main changes are as follows.

Under FCA if the parties agree, the buyer, at its cost and risk, must instruct the carrier to issue to the seller a transport document (e.g. a bill of lading with an on-board notation) stating that the goods have been loaded, which the seller must then provide to the buyer.

Under CIP sellers will need to obtain cargo insurance cover which complies with Clauses (A) of the Institute Cargo Clauses (LMA / IUA) which, subject to certain exclusions, cover “all risks”, subject to the parties’ right to agree to a higher or lower level of cover.

DAT (Delivered at Terminal) now becomes DPU (Delivered at Place Unloaded).

FCA, DAP, DPU now allow the Seller to use its own transport rather than using a third party carrier.

Security obligations are made more prominent.

Anti-suit injunction against owners’ third party proceedings against charterers and sub-charterers in Singapore.

 

The Chang Hang Guang Rong [2019] EWHC 2284 (Comm)  is an interesting, recent anti-suit injunction decision by Andrew Burrows QC, soon to become a Judge of the Supreme Court. Cargo claims arising out of the issue of switch bills were brought against the vessel’s owners in the Singapore High Court. Owners sought to pass these on to Clearlake, the charterer, and to Gunvor the sub charterers, through third party proceedings analogous to CPR Part 20 procedure in England. Both parties obtained anti-suit injunctions (ASI) from the High Court in London on the basis of an exclusive jurisdiction clause in the charter with Clearlake and in the bill of lading issued to Gunvor as shipper, although Gunvor denied being a party thereto.

Owners responded by amending their claims in the Singapore High Court, deleting all their contractual claims against Gunvor and relying on tort claims for misrepresentation, and deleting all their contractual claims against Clearlake, save for claims under a Letter of Indemnity, which contained a non-exclusive London High Court jurisdiction clause. Andrew Burrows QC held that there were two grounds for granting an ASI. First the foreign proceedings constituted a breach of the jurisdiction clause in the contract between the parties. An ASI would be granted unless there were strong reasons not to. Second, the foreign proceedings were otherwise vexatious and oppressive. The court would have to be satisfied that England was clearly the more appropriate forum for trial of the action. The ASI in respect of the proceedings against Clearlake fell within the first category and was maintained. Although the LOI provided for London arbitration for small claims this inconsistency was of no consequence as the claims here were not small.

The injunction was also maintained as regards Owners’ claims against Gunvor, now reframed solely as tort claims, which fell within the second category. The bringing of such claims was vexatious and oppressive, in that it circumvented the normal way of passing claims down a charter chain by leap-frogging Clearlake. Owners had manipulated their third party claims to avoid the exclusive jurisdiction clause in the charter. Clearlake, not Gunvor, dealt directly with the owners and the alleged misrepresentation was directly provided to them by Clearlake. There was a very good reason, so as to avoid forum-fragmentation on the same issues, to have all third party proceedings heard in the same jurisdiction (ie England). There was no obvious prejudice to owners in having all the third party proceedings heard in England rather than Singapore. It was not necessary to decide a further issue of whether Clearlake could restrain the tortious claims against Gunvor

Parliament has not been prorogued. Supreme Court rules prorogation unlawful and of no effect.

 

Today the Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that Mr Johnson’s advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament was unlawful and the subsequent Order in Council giving effect to it was unlawful, void and of no effect and should be quashed.

The Supreme Court  found that the lawfulness of the Prime Minister’s advice to Her Majesty is justiciable, both as regards the existence and limits of a prerogative power. A decision to advise prorogation would be unlawful if the prorogation has the effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive. This was the case here. This prolonged suspension of Parliamentary democracy took place in quite exceptional circumstances in the light of the fundamental change which was due to take place in the Constitution of the United Kingdom on 31st October.

Parliament reconvenes today, Wed 25 September.

Former Justice of the Supreme Court, Jonathan Sumption, today expressed the view, on the ‘Today’ programme, that enforcement of the Benn Act would be through proceedings being taken in the Courts and the Court appointing an individual to write the letter requesting an extension under article 50 on behalf of the Prime Minister.

 

 

England 1 Scotland 1. Brexit prorogation in the courts. Extra time now being played in the Supreme Court.

Last week in Cherry v Lord Advocate the First Division, Inner House, Court of Session [2019] CSIH 49 P680/19 held that Mr Johnson’s decision to advise the Queen to prorogue Parliament for five weeks was justiciable. The key part of the decision is quoted below.

“[91] I can see that just because a government has resorted to a procedural manoeuvre in order to achieve its purpose does not mean that there is necessarily scope for judicial review. Procedural manoeuvres are the stuff of politics, whether conducted in Parliament or in lesser bodies. However, when the manoeuvre is quite so blatantly designed “to frustrate Parliament” at such a critical juncture in the history of the United Kingdom I consider that the court may legitimately find it to be unlawful.

There are undoubted difficulties in the courts applying its supervisory jurisdiction to an exercise of the royal prerogative within the political sphere, but Mr Johnston for the respondent did not go the distance of saying that there could never be a case which would justify intervention. He accepted that a two year prorogation of Parliament might be amenable to review. Here, the prorogation is only five weeks (and it is to be borne in mind that in practice the reduction of sitting days will be less because of the traditional adjournment of Parliament during the political party conference 49 season). However, it is a lengthy prorogation at a particularly sensitive moment when time would seem to be of the essence. In my opinion Mr Mure QC for the Lord Advocate (whose analysis I accept) was right to point to the dictum of Lord Sumption in Pham v Secretary of State [2015] UKSC 19 at paras 105-106: “in reality [there is] a sliding scale, in which the cogency of the justification required for interfering with a right will be proportionate to its perceived importance and the extent of the interference”.

Here there has been interference with Parliament’s right to sit, should it wish to. The petitioners want to protect that right. If Parliament does not wish to be so protected it can decide accordingly but the petitioners want to give it the opportunity to determine whether and when it is to sit between now and 31 October. The petitioners submit that as yet Parliament has not had that opportunity, notwithstanding the legislative activity that was going on during the hearing of the reclaiming motion.

What has led me to conclude that the court is entitled to find the making of the Order unlawful is the extreme nature of the case. A formulation to which I have been attracted is found in chapter 14, Crown Powers, the Royal Prerogative and Fundamental Rights, in Wilberg & Elliott, The Scope and Intensity of Substantive Review (Hart, 2015) at p 374 where the author of the chapter, Sales LJ, as he then was, refers to a group of authorities where the courts had been prepared to review exercises of the Crown’s common law and prerogative powers. The formulation is: “these are egregious cases where there is a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behaviour of public authorities”. I see this as an egregious case. Mr O’Neill came to submit that the essence of the illegality here was irrationality (as had been the cases with the cases referred to by Sales LJ). Mr O’Neill may be right about that, although I would see it as having to do with improper purpose. At all events, I consider the Order to be unlawful and that making it was contrary to the rule of law.”

 

A contrario, the English High Court has found that the matter is one of high politics and is not justiciable.

The case is currently being heard on appeal in the Supreme Court. Eleven of the Twelve Justices of the Supreme Court are hearing the case.

 “Anchor aweigh”. No retrospective invalidity of NOR.

 

In London Arbitration 16/19 a vessel was chartered on Gencon form which was amended so that notice of readiness (NOR) could be tendered at any time after the ship’s arrival at an anchorage 150 km downriver from the discharge port with passage time from anchorage to discharge port not to count as laytime. The vessel arrived at anchorage and tendered NOR. When the pilot boarded the vessel was found to have only one anchor available which had not been notified in advance to the port authorities. The pilot would only proceed upriver if the owners would hire an escort tug. The owners declined on cost grounds and decided to replace the second anchor instead. The vessel was sent back to the anchorage to do this and then proceeded back to the pilot station with two anchors and from there proceeded to the discharge port and berthed the following day. The owners claimed laytime started with giving of NOR but as a good will gesture discounted the time from when the vessel first weighed anchor to proceed to the pilot station to when the vessel arrived at the discharge port.

The tribunal accepted charterer’s evidence that  two anchors was a normal requirement for river navigation, and that in a case of a missing anchor it was usual and reasonable for a standby tug to be required. However, when the vessel gave NOR, the absence of a second anchor was not an absolute bar, as the possibility existed of proceeding to the discharge port with tug assistance. When the vessel tendered NOR she was not, therefore, in a condition in itself that necessarily precluded her from completing the contractual voyage. It was owners’ later decision not to employ a standby tug that had that effect. Owners’ decision did not retrospectively invalidate the NOR tendered at a time when the vessel was able to proceed to the discharge port, albeit with tug assistance rather than by having two anchors on board.

Owners’ decision not to proceed with an escort tug, on cost grounds, was appropriately addressed by the exclusion of time in the manner adopted in their calculations.

Brexit in the courts. Miller loses, but Supreme Court to hear on 17 Sept.

Gina Miller’s challenge to prorogation was unsuccessful but an appeal to the Supreme Court has been scheduled for 17 Sept. The court’s reasons are to be released shortly.

With the possibility of a new PM early next week this may all become somewhat academic.

Today the House of Lords has passed the Benn bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit and it will receive the Royal Assent on Monday.

It has been revealed that a former Prime Minister has been referred to by Mr Johnson in a leaked memo as ‘a girly swot’.