We shall ‘overcome’ – through offering non contractual performance.

MUR Shipping BV v RTI Ltd [2022] EWHC 467 (Comm) raised the question of whether the effect of financial sanctions obliges a contractual party to accept payment in a currency other than that specified in the contract, which has now come before the Court of Appeal [2022] EWCA Civ 1406.

Mur Shipping BV (“the Owners” or “MUR”) concluded a Contract of Affreightment (“COA”) with RTI Ltd (“the Charterers” or “RTI”) in June 2016. Under the COA, the Charterers contracted to ship, and the Owners contracted to carry, approximately 280,000 metric tons per month of bauxite, in consignments of 30,000 – 40,000 metric tons, from Conakry in Guinea to Dneprobugsky in Ukraine. On 6 April 2018, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) applied sanctions (“the sanctions”) to RTI’s parent company, adding them to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. This led to the Owners invoking a force majeure clause in the COA by sending a force majeure notice (“FM Notice”) on 10 April 2018 in which the Owners said that it would be a breach of sanctions for the Owners to continue with the performance of the COA and noted that the “sanctions will prevent dollar payments, which are required under the COA”. Charterers offered to make the payment in euros and to bear the cost of converting those euros into dollars which the tribunal described as a “completely realistic alternative” to the payment obligation in the COA, which was to pay in US dollars.

The force majeure clause provided for the suspension of the obligation of each party to perform the Charter Party while such Force Majeure Event is in operation.  The clause provided that

“36.3. A Force Majeure Event is an event or state of affairs which meets all of the following criteria:

a) It is outside the immediate control of the Party giving the Force Majeure Notice;

b) It prevents or delays the loading of the cargo at the loading port and/or the discharge of the cargo at the discharging port;

c) It is caused by one or more of acts of God, extreme weather conditions, war, lockout, strikes or other labour disturbances, explosions, fire, invasion, insurrection, blockade, embargo, riot, flood, earthquake, including all accidents to piers, shiploaders, and/or mills, factories, barges, or machinery, railway and canal stoppage by ice or frost, any rules or regulations of governments or any interference or acts or directions of governments, the restraint of princes, restrictions on monetary transfers and exchanges;

d) It cannot be overcome by reasonable endeavors from the Party affected.”

The matter went to arbitration and the Tribunal in its award held that Mur could not rely on the force majeure clause because the offer of payment in euros meant that the ‘event or state of affairs’ could have been ‘overcome by reasonable endeavours from the Party affected’. The Tribunal found that RTI was therefore entitled to damages for MUR’s refusal to nominate vessels to load the relevant cargoes.

On an appeal under s69 of the Arbitration Act 1996 Jacobs J held that the Tribunal had erred in their finding that “reasonable endeavours” required the Owners to accept the Charterers’ proposal to make payment in a non-contractual currency. A party does not have to perform the contract otherwise than in accordance with the contract in order to avoid a force majeure event. He held that the contract required payment in US dollars and that “a party is not required, by the exercise of reasonable endeavours, to accept non-contractual performance in order to circumvent the effect of a force majeure or similar clause”, referencing the decision in Bulman v Fenwick & Co [1894] 1 QB 179. The case involved a voyage charter where the charterer could discharge the cargo of coal at one of certain named places on the Thames. The charterer nominated the Regents Canal which subsequently became subject to a strike. The charterer resisted a demurrage claim on the grounds of a strike exception. Owners claimed charterers should have ordered discharge at one of the other possible places on the Thames. It was held that the charterer was entitled to send the vessel to the Regent’s Canal, with no limitation express or implied on its choice of discharge place and that the delay fell within the strike exception clause.

The Court of Appeal has now, in a majority decision [2022] EWCA Civ 1406, reversed the decision at first instance. The Court of Appeal focussed on the word ‘overcome’ in cl 36.3.(d). Males LJ, giving the principal judgment of the majority, held that the real question was whether acceptance of RTI’s proposal to pay freight in euros and to bear the cost of converting those euros into dollars would overcome the state of affairs caused by the imposition of sanctions on Rusal. Could that state of affairs only be overcome if RTI found a way to make timely payments of freight in US dollars, in strict accordance with the terms of the contract? The answer was ‘no’.

Clause 36 should be applied in a common sense way which achieves the purpose underlying the parties’ obligations –that MUR should receive the right quantity of US dollars in its bank account at the right time. RTI were able and willing to pay in euros and to bear any additional costs or exchange rate losses in converting the euros to US dollars. Accepting their proposal would have achieved precisely the same result as performance of the contractual obligation to pay in US dollars. The word “overcome” did not necessarily mean that the contract must be performed in strict accordance with its terms, given that the arbitrators’ conclusion in their award that the force majeure could have been “overcome by reasonable endeavours from the Party affected” was a finding of fact, or at any rate of mixed fact and law, with which the court should not interfere. The cases of Bulman v Fenwick and the Vancouver Strikes case referred to by Jacobs J were not relevant as neither case involved a force majeure provision such as cl.36 (d).

Arnold LJ dissenting found that if the parties to the contract of affreightment intended clause 36.3(d) to extend to a requirement to accept non-contractual performance, clear express words were required and there were none. He gave the example of a contract of carriage requiring discharge at port A which was strike bound. Clause 36 would not require acceptance of an offer by the other party to divert to port B which would involve no detriment to the party invoking the clause because the goods were required at a place equidistant to the two ports. The party invoking the clause is entitled to insist on contractual performance by the other.

The decision is very much tied to the wording of the particular force majeure clause in question and to the fact that the offer to pay the dollar equivalent in euros would have involved no detriment to owners. In the absence of such a clause a party would still be entitled to insist on contractual performance, as in Bulman v Fenwick.

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

In one of our previous posts ( https://iistl.blog/2022/04/13/financial-security-in-cases-of-abandonment-a-four-month-limit-for-unpaid-seafarers-wages%ef%bf%bc/ ), 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.  

Performance Warranties in Charterparties- “Good Weather” Qualification Again!  

Eastern Pacific Chartering inc v. Pola Maritime Ltd (The Divinegate) [2022] EWHC 2095 (Comm)

The Divinegate was trip chartered on an amended NYPE 1946 form with additional clauses for a carriage of pig iron from Riga via the Baltic Sea to the Mississippi River in the United States. Following discharge of the cargo, the owners sought unpaid hire, bunkers and expenses totalling US$ 99,982.79 and the charterers sought deductions from hire of US$ 93,074.55 for the failure to proceed with utmost despatch on the voyage and hull fouling. The charterers also made a counterclaim for US$ 72, 629.01 as damages in tort on grounds of the owners’ allegedly wrongful arrest of the vessel, The Polo Devora, of which charterers believed to be the beneficial owner. The wrongful arrest counterclaim failed and will not be discussed here.

The charterparty contained a performance warranty to the effect that “Speed and consumption basis no adverse currents and valid up and including Douglas Sea State 3/ Beaufort Force 4.”

The essence of the litigation was the assessment of the chartered vessel’s performance to determine whether there was, in fact, a failure to proceed with utmost despatch on the voyage. The owners contended that the performance of the vessel should be assessed in a conventional way, i.e. by reference to the vessel’s speed during “good weather”. The charterers, on the other hand, suggested that underperformance could be established by reference to the vessel’s measured RPM (revolution per minute) which reflects the engine speed maintained by the crew.   

The Judgment and Lessons for the Future          

Ms Clare Ambrose, sitting as a High Court Deputy Judge, made significant observations on the state of law in this area and reached interesting conclusions which are likely to inform the judges and arbitrators who are often called in to deal with performance related claims in the context of time (and trip) charters.

  1. It was stressed that traditional way of establishing breach and loss in performance claims is the “good weather” method and in instances where the parties have adopted such a formulation in their contracts (which was the case here) this will be the primary method of assessment used by the court.

2. The judge also appreciated that this is not the only available methodology for making calculations and there is no bar for alternative methods being used to measure vessel’s performance. However, any alternative method must be consistent with the express wording contained in the charterparty and must also be established as “reliable”. On the facts of this case, the RPM method was not found to be reliable in identifying loss of time as it made incorrect assumptions as to the resistance on the hull and made no allowance for weather conditions being a reason for a reduction in engine speed, as well as ignoring the fact that there were periods the vessel could not achieve the warranted speed due to other factors, e.g. currents.

Therefore, the judge left it open to parties to argue that alternative methods (especially in the light of emerging technologies) could be used to assess a chartered vessel’s performance but strongly hinted that so far no satisfactory method has been put forward to sway judges/arbitrators away from the traditional method and legal principles that have been developed for years. Referring to the “good weather” method, Ms Ambrose said (at [90]):

The approach adopted in the authorities reflects commercial practice in assessing performance and the specific wording chosen by the parties, rather than the court imposing legal methodologies.

3. An interesting debate in the case related to the impact of currents in the assessment of performance of the vessel. It was contended by the charterer that allowance should be made for the positive currents and positive currents should be, therefore, a factor in determining whether the vessel’s performance is at the warranted level. This argument found no support from the judge. It was held that in the absence of wording excluding the benefits of positive currents, such benefits should not be deducted in measuring the vessel’s speed for the purposes of the performance warranty. This provides a judicial clarity on the matter and is logical from a commercial perspective. A contrary solution would have meant that the owners would be penalised for its master finding a favourable current and ensuring that the vessel goes faster and burns less fuel (something that is economically beneficiary for both parties).

The judge applying the “good weather” method, reached the conclusion that the chartered vessel failed to meet the warranted speed so there was underperformance giving rise to a loss of time of 16 hours.

4. The judge also rejected the claim for hull fouling indicating that the use of good weather method for calculating loss from slow steaming would otherwise lead to double recovery.

The judgment is a reminder to the market that in the absence of clear and contrary wording it will be rather difficult to shift the traditional method of assessing a chartered vessel’s performance with reference to good weather method. However, especially in trip charters there remains a realistic possibility that it might not be possible to obtain good weather sample so as to be able to assess the performance of the vessel. In those instances, with the advances in technology, the courts and arbitrators might come under pressure to consider alternative assessment methods that could shed light on the performance of the chartered vessel.              

Insurable Interest in Cargo Insurance Context and First Late Payment of Claim Assertion in English Law


Quadra Commodities SA v. XL Insurance and others [2022] EWHC 431 (Comm)

The assured was a commodities trader who entered into various contracts with Agroinvest Group for the purchase of grain. On receipt of warehouse receipts confirming that the relevant quantities of grain were held in common bulk in stipulated warehouses or “Elevators”, the assured paid for the grain. However, it later transpired that Agrionvest Group and the warehouses were involved in a fraudulent scheme whereby the same parcel of grain or seeds may have been pledged and/or sold many times over to different traders. The fraud unravelled when buyers sought to execute physical deliveries against the warehouse receipts and it became clear that there was not enough grain to go around.


The assured sought to recover its losses under a marine cargo policy claiming that the insured goods were lost either because they had been misappropriated or because there was a loss by reason of the assured’s acceptance of fraudulent warehouse receipts. The relevant clauses in the policy stipulated as follows:

Misappropriation
This insurance contract covers all physical damage and/or losses, directly caused to the insured goods by misappropriation.

Fraudulent Documents

This policy covers physical loss of or damage to goods and/or merchandise insured hereunder through the acceptance by the Assured and/or their Agents and/or Shippers of fraudulent shipping documents, including but not limited to Bill(s) of Lading and/or Shipping Receipts and/or Messenger Receipt(s) and/or Warehouse Receipts and/or other shipping document(s).

Insurable Interest Issue

The insurers denied cover on the basis that the assured did not have insurable interest in any of the goods which were lost and/or there was no physical loss of the property, only pure financial loss, which was not insured. The basis of the insurers’ case on insurable interest was that this was not an insurance on property but instead an insurance of an adventure, including the success of storage operations. The judge (Butcher, J) was quick to dismiss this submission by referring to various terms in the contract pointing strongly to the direction that this was indeed an insurance on the property (grain) which the assured was purchasing from the buyers. The alternative argument of the insurers was interesting and raised issues whether the assured had insurable interest in the goods. It was essentially argued that even if the insurance was on the cargo purchased, the assured had no insurable interest in the present case as the cargo in question never existed. With this argument the insurers were primarily encouraging the court to adopt a strict approach to insurable interest following the spirit of the reasoning of Lord Eldon in Lucena v. Craufurd (1806) 2 & P.N.R. 269 which suggested that only those who stand in a “legal and equitable relationship to the property” have insurable interest in the context of property insurance.
The judge was able to dismiss insurers’ argument by holding that the assured was successful, on a balance of probabilities, in showing that goods corresponding in quantity and description to the cargoes were physically present at the time the Warehouse Receipts were issued. This meant that this was not an insurance policy on goods that never existed and accordingly the assured had insurable interest on the grounds that:

• The assured had made payment for goods under purchase contracts, and such payment for unascertained goods of the relevant description was valid ground for establishing an insurable interest irrespective of whether there were competing interests in the grain. The assured, therefore, stood in a “legal or equitable relation” to the property by virtue of the payment.

• The assured was able to show on the balance of probabilities that it had an immediate right to possession of the grain and this coupled with its economic interest in the grain can give rise to an insurable interest.

This outcome in the case is in line with authorities on the subject and is not too controversial. However, the curious point is whether the court would have reached the same conclusion on insurable interest, had it decided that on balance of probability the assured failed to show that goods corresponding in quantity and description to the cargoes were physically present. There is authority to the effect that an assured has no insurable interest in insuring property that it does not own although it might have a factual expectation of loss related to that property (Macaura v. Northern Assurance Co Ltd [1925] AC 619). However, a different stance has taken on the matter in other common law jurisdictions (in particular by the Supreme Court of Canada in Constitution Insurance Company of Canada v Ksmopoulos [1987] 1 SCR 2). Also, there is a marked shift in attitude of English courts towards a more flexible approach to insurable interest (especially in cases like National Oilwell Ltd v Davy Offshore (UI) Ltd [1993] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 582 and The Moonacre [1992] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 501). It should be at least arguable that a person who is led to believe by a fraudster to purchase goods (that never existed) and paid for them under a sale contract, should have an insurable interest if s/he enters into a contract of insurance to protect his/her interest against the risk of not getting what s/he paid for.

Late Payment Issue

The Insurance Act (IA) 2015 implies a term into insurance contracts to the effect that the insurer must pay any sums due in respect of a claim within a “reasonable time” (s. 13A of the IA 2015). However, by virtue of s. 13A(4) the insurer is not in breach of this implied term if it shows that there were reasonable grounds for disputing the claim merely by failing to pay while the dispute is continuing. The assured in the present case contended that the insurers’ conduct of the claim was “wholly unreasonable, and its investigations either unnecessary or unreasonably slow” and resulted the assured suffering losses by reference to the return on shareholders’ equity. Conversely, the insurers argued that a reasonable time was “a considerable time” and extended beyond the time by which proceedings were commenced. In any event, the insurers argued that by virtue of s. 13A(4) there was no breach of this implied term as they had reasonable grounds to dispute the claim.

Given that this was the first case on the matter, in considering whether there was any breach of the implied term, the judge apart from the guidance provided by s. 13A(2) of the Insurance Act, also turned to the Law Commissions’ Report and the Explanatory Notes to the legislation before ultimately deciding that there was no breach of the implied term. In reaching this conclusion, the judge made reference to a number of factors:


i) That although the case was relating to a dispute that arose in relation to a property insurance cover (which according to the Explanatory Notes such claims usually take less time to value than, for example, business interruption claims), the cover in question applied to transport and storage operations of different types and involving or potentially involving many different countries and locations, and claims under such a cover, could involve very various factual patterns and differing difficulties of investigation);
ii) The size of the claim was substantial;
iii) The fraud, uncertainty as to what happened, the destruction of documents, existence of legal proceedings in Ukraine and the fact that the assured elected to swap from French law to English law during the investigation were all significant complicating factors; and
iv) Relevant factors outside insurers’ control, included the destruction and unavailability of evidence and the legal proceedings in Ukraine.

On the point raised by the insurer, s. 13A(4) of the IA 2015, it was held that the insurer bears the burden of proof but here they had reasonable grounds for disputing the claim stressing that although the grounds for rejecting the claim were wrong, this did not mean that they were unreasonable. Although the judge considered elements of the insurers’ investigations were delayed, the investigations occurred in what was considered to be a reasonable time and they were part of the reasonable grounds for disputing the claim that existed throughout.

This is the first judgment on s. 13A of the IA 2015. When first introduced, there was some concern especially among insurers that this section might fuel US type of bad-faith litigation against insures. However, the parameters for such a claim are well-defined in s. 13(A) and guidance is provided to courts as to how they should judge whether a claim is paid/assessed within a reasonable time. The manner in which the trial judge made use of such guidance in this case is a clear indication that late payment claims will not go down the path that has been taken by some US courts and in England & Wales an assertion of late payment of an insurance claim will only be successful in some extreme cases. There is no doubt that insurers will take some comfort from the judgment given that it is clear now that an insurer’s decision to refuse payment for a claim will not automatically amount to breach of this implied term even if it is found that the grounds for disputing the claim are wrong.

COPYRIGHT IN THE POST BREXIT WORLD – WAVING GOODBYE TO THE AQUIS?

The UK exited the EU on 31 January 2020, with the transition period ending on 31 December 2020. Given the teething problems of the early years of Brexit, one can only imagine how troubled the adolescence will prove to be and IP is no exception. Prior to Brexit, the UK adhered to the Civil Enforcement Directive 2004/48/EC which was implemented to address the disparities between EC Member States for the enforcement of IP rights. Subsequent attempts to harmonise criminal sanctions across the Member States by way of the proposed Criminal Enforcement Directive (IPRED2) failed, due in part, to the lack of EU aquis communautaire and the fact that the use of criminal sanctions and remedies for IP infringement remains very controversial. The UK was the only European State to have called the aquis into question and it is now about to embark on a creating a pyre of otiose law. However, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which came into effect in 2021 (TCA) appears to transpose at least the spirit of the Civil Enforcement Directive and some of the provisions appear to be more prescriptive. The September 2021 Blog considered the effect of Brexit on civil IP damages. This Blog considers the aquis in that context.

It is worth briefly considering the nature of the EU aquis, described as ‘seeming to live a dull and uninteresting life between periods of EU enlargement and it always seems to be one of those immensely important concepts that always finds its way into the headlines of newspapers, magazines, journals and news bulletins, when enlargement is on the agenda’. Joseph Weiller describes the aquis thus: ‘The holiest cow of all has been the preservation of the aquis communautaire and within the aquis, the Holy of Holiest is the Constitutional Framework of the Community.’ The aquis or Community Patrimony, is the body of common rights and obligations which bind all Member States together within the EU. It is a very concrete social structure which automatically confronts new Members of the EU and is something that they have to accept and adapt to. Brexit was the result of the UK having been confronted with the aquis, but never having accepted, or adapted to it. During David Cameron’s tenure as Prime Minister, he wrote an article for the Daily Telegraph, published on 15 March 2014, in which he postulated that ‘I completely understand and share people’s concern about the EU. Our businesses value the Single Market, but find the degree of European interference in our everyday life, excessive. People are worried that Britain is being sucked into a United States of Europe.’ 

In 2017, the academics Richard Arnold and Lionel Bentley et al considered the legal consequences of Brexit for IP law before the TCA was finalised. They rightly identified that the UK would have to comply with some of the EU aquis since every EU FTA with the rest of the world, comes with a detailed IP chapter, which obliges the other party to comply with some features of EU law even if it secures trade agreements only with third parties, such as Australia or New Zealand, beyond Europe, as third countries are often themselves, bound by bilateral agreements with the EU. Copyright law is harmonised in the EU by nine Directives, which were of direct effect in the UK, prior to Brexit and therefore implemented in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988). These remained in force until modification, the most urgent, being the references to Member States and another EEA State. The Intellectual Property (Copyright and Related Rights) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I. 2019/605), passed under the powers of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, coming into force on 1 January 2021, removed all references to the EU, EEA or Member States in UK copyright legislation and preserved the effect of UK law where possible. Arnold and Bently were right to recommend that if the UK starts to unravel the copyright EU aquis, it would in any case, be wise to revamp the CDPA 1988, now a long and over complicated instrument, a fact noted in my previous September Blog.

The TCA has set out the general principles governing copyright, such as agreement by the parties to affirm their commitment to comply with international treaties such as the TRIPS Agreement, National Treatment, the rights of authors and performers and terms of protection, but given the emergency amendments set out in the 2018 Regulations and the incorporation into the TCA of the provisions of the Enforcement Directive 2004/48/EC, there is scope for confusion relating to the applicable principles of IP protection. 

In relation to the enforcement of IP rights, little will change in practice, as the UK and the EU are parties to international IP treaties, such as the TRIPS Agreement. The value and legacy of the case law of the CJEU, which has a defining role in shaping the EU copyright framework, will need to be considered. The legal value of the CJEU case law issued before and after Brexit, will have to be addressed, as it likely that the court will refer to decisions as a  guiding principle at least, even if they are not directly applicable to future legal decisions. The case law decided pre-Brexit, may carry greater weight than post Brexit case law, given that it was applicable in the UK, prior to 31 December 2020. Further, as EU Directives have been implemented in the UK via national legislation, the content of those Directives have been analysed through UK case law, embedding it within the common law system.

Whilst he was the Brexit Minister, Lord David Frost delivered a statement to the House of Lords on 16 September 2021, on the future of retained law. He stated that he was going to conduct a review of so called ‘Retained EU Law’, legislation that remained on the UK statute books through the 2018 Withdrawal Act. This was intended to remove the special status of retained EU law, so that it was not a distinct category domestic law, but normalised within the national law, with clear legislative status, so that EU law does not attract undue precedence and the UK courts will be able to fully depart from it. A new, Standing Commission is to be set up, in order to receive ideas from any British citizen on how to repeal or improve regulation. The challenge here, is to redraft the CDPA 1988, so that European IP law is replaced with legislation that remains compatible with the TCA. However, the very fact that such legislation has to demonstrate such compatibility, shows that the UK is yet again confronted by the aquis, must adapt to it and continue to accept it. We will not be waving it goodbye anytime soon.

PROTECTING YOUR MARITIME TRADE SECRETS & COMMERCIAL REPUTATION (PART TWO)

In October of last year I wrote a blog about the case of Salt Ship Design AS v Prysmian Powerlink SRL [2021] EWHC 2633 and the insight it offered into the operation of the Trade Secrets (Enforcement etc.) Regulations 2018 [TSR].

Mr Justice Jacobs notes that, “[F]ollowing judgment on the liability issues in this case a large number of issues arose for determination at a hearing of “consequential” matters arising from the judgment…[T]his (latest) judgment concerns an application by the Claimant (“Salt”) for a publicity order pursuant to the Trade Secrets (Enforcement, etc) Regulations 2018, SI 2018/597.”

Jacobs was of the view that paragraph (3) (a) – (c) of Regulation 18 should be at the forefront of the court’s analysis, which provides:

(3) In deciding whether to order a measure under paragraph (1) and when assessing whether such measure is proportionate, the court must take into account where appropriate—
(a)the value of the trade secret,
(b)the conduct of the infringer in acquiring, using or disclosing the trade secret,
(c)the impact of the unlawful use or disclosure of the trade secret,

Rejecting the need for a more stringent test of “necessity” before the court exercised its discretion [18], Jacobs considered it “appropriate” that the court should grant the publicity order sought by Salt. However, he found it would not be appropriate to require Prysmian to put a Notice on the home page of their website, rather the principal web page publicising the Leonardo da Vinci. Accepting case-law makes clear that a publicity order is not intended to be punitive Jacobs recognised that to ensure such a measure remained proportionate required wording advising web users that the court has not granted any relief which prevents Prysmian from trading the Leonardo da Vinci. Jacobs therefore determined:

“The Defendant shall display the following notice to all persons accessing the following Leonardo da Vinci page on the Prysmian Group website (https://www.prysmiangroup.com/en/new-vessel-leonardo-da-vinci) from an internet protocol (IP) address identifying the United Kingdom, until 30 June 2022, such notice to be in no smaller than 12-point type:

“On 30 September 2021 the High Court of Justice of England and Wales ruled that Prysmian Powerlink SRL had misused Salt Ship Design AS’s confidential information in relation to the design of Prysmian Powerlink SRL’s Leonardo da Vinci cable laying vessel. A copy of the full judgment of the High Court is available on the following link [link given]. On * December 2021, the High Court of Justice of England and Wales made further rulings in the case. A copy of the further judgment is available on the following link [link given]. The court has not granted any order which prevents Prysmian from trading the Leonardo da Vinci.”

This six month notice period being “appropriate” to the anticipated date of the official launching ceremony for the Leonardo da Vinci, although at the time of writing the Notice stills remains to be inserted into the web page.

Keeping Confidential Information confidential during IP litigation

In a second instalment to Anan Kasei Co Ltd and another v Neo Chemicals & Oxides (Europe) Ltd and others [2021] EWHC 3295 (Pat) Mr Justice Mellor addressed the list of ‘important points’ identified by Lord Justice Floyd when looking to the protection of confidential information during IP litigation:-

i)   In managing the disclosure of highly confidential information in intellectual property litigation, the court must balance the interests of the receiving party in having the fullest possible access to relevant documents against the interests of the disclosing party, or third parties, in the preservation of their confidential commercial and technical information. 

ii)   An arrangement under which an officer or employee of the receiving party gains no access at all to documents of importance at trial will be exceptionally rare, if indeed it can happen at all.

iii)   There is no universal form of order suitable for use in every case, or even at every stage of the same case.

iv)   The court must be alert to the fact that restricting disclosure to external eyes only [EEO club] at any stage is exceptional.

v)   If an external eyes only tier is created for initial disclosure, the court should remember that the onus remains on the disclosing party throughout to justify that designation for the documents so designated.

vi)   Different types of information may require different degrees of protection, according to their value and potential for misuse. The protection to be afforded to a secret process may be greater than the protection to be afforded to commercial licences where the potential for misuse is less obvious.

vii)   Difficulties of policing misuse are also relevant.

viii)   The extent to which a party may be expected to contribute to the case based on a document is relevant.

ix)   The role which the documents will play in the action is also a material consideration.

x)   The structure and organisation of the receiving party is a factor which feeds into the way the confidential information has to be handled. [Oneplus v Mitsubishi [2020] EWCA Civ 1562 at 39-40]

In so doing Mr Justice Mellor reached the conclusion that this summary primarily, “points to the need for the Court to strike an appropriate balance” [at 25]. In his judgement of 6th December 2021 Mr Justice Mellor also addressed Regulation 10 of The Trade Secrets (Enforcement, etc.) Regulations 2018, in particular subsections 4, 5, 6 and 7, concluding “[I]n my view, these regulations reflect the existing position on the authorities and do not support a hardline view” [at 29]. Given the particulars of the present case Mr Justice Mellor nevertheless reached the decision that the, “EEO materials required more protection than Mr Morris (Neo) was prepared to offer… [and] that the circumstances in this case require an exceptional solution” [at 76] be reached.

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.

It is now a question of when not whether the case ends up in the Supreme Court, as leave to appeal was granted on 5 September 2022.

Confidential information v trade secrets

Image by Aymanejed from Pixabay

Richard Baker Harrison Ltd v Brooks and others – [2021] All ER (D) 94 (Oct) offered the opportunity for a further exploration of the new legal relationship between trade secrets and confidential information, yet ultimately the case demonstrates how the legal community remains comfortable addressing trade secrets through the prism of confidentiality.

Richard Baker Harrison Limited (“RBH”) is a leading distributor of minerals and chemical raw materials which it supplies to manufacturers worldwide. Whilst not in itself a manufacturer it occupies a key position within the plastic, rubber, coating, adhesive and sealant, composite, ceramic and polishing sectors. In this case RBH sought to enforce obligations of non-competition, confidentiality, and post-termination restrictions against two former employees – Mr Brooks and Mr Sambrook – who had left RHB to establish SBS Sourcing Limited (a mineral sourcing and supply services business).

It was not in dispute that Brooks and Sambrook owed express obligations to protect RBH’s confidential information under their contract of employment but both defendants accepted that their contracts of employment also included the implied term of good faith and fidelity. Deputy High Court Judge Margaret Obi noted, “[T]his abstract concept includes an obligation to refrain from conduct which would be regarded as unacceptable by reasonable and honest people. In essence, it is no more than an obligation to loyally carry out the role of an employee. However, unlike a fiduciary duty, it does not require the employee to act solely in the interests of the employer … and mere preparations to set up a competing business after the termination of the employment are not necessarily a breach of contract.”

Mr Brooks admitted that he was under a duty, whilst employed, to maintain the confidentiality of RBH’s trade secrets and/or confidential information, and not to use any information obtained in confidence as a consequence of his employment to the detriment of RBH. However, he denied that there were any equitable duties in relation to trade secrets and/or confidential information that were not covered by the express terms or applicable implied terms of the contract. Accepting this submission Judge Obi denied the existence of any equitable duty relating to misuse of trade secrets.

Finding it to be “trite law that during the currency of the employment relationship the employer is entitled to protect confidential information whether it amounts to a trade secret or not”, Judge Obi was satisfied that RBH’s “customer/supplier connections, the stability of its workforce and the protection of its confidential information are all legitimate business interests requiring protection”.