Ace Quantum Chemical Tankers CV v Nordic Tankers Trading. (MN “Chem Sirius”) – SMA No.4392, 26 July 2020

SPOT CHARTER – PRORATED WAITING TIME – SUSPENDED LAYTIME – DROPPED TENDER 

Ace Quantum Chemical Tankers CV v Nordic Tankers Trading. (MN “Chem Sirius”) – SMA No.4392, 26 July 2020

This is a dispute between Ace Quantum Chemical Tankers CV (“Owner”) and Nordic Tankers Trading (“Charterer”) under a charter party dated 13 September 2017 to the MN Chem Sirius (“Vessel”). The SMA did not report the boilerplate underpinning the C/P.  Owner contends Charterer owes demurrage of $42,540.47, plus interest, attorney fees, and arbitrator fees.  Alternatively, Owner claims $31,449.84 in demurrage.  Charterer rejects Owner’s claim in its entirety and asks to be awarded its attorney fees and arbitrator fees.

It was Charterer’s position that this action by the Vessel was the root cause as to why the Vessel did not berth at Vopak until September 21, 2017. 

Owner informed Charterer on September 15th that it had tendered NOR# 1 and that ” without prejudice, all going well” it anticipated berthing at ExxonMobil Baytown on September 15th and further projected berthing at Vopak on 16-18th September.  However, Charterer claims no demurrage is due because Vessel dropped tender at Charterer’s berth of Vopak when, rather than going to Vopak when Vopak was available, Vessel instead transited to and proceeded to work other cargoes at the ExxonMobil terminal.  It was Charterer’s position that this action by the Vessel was the root cause as to why the Vessel did not berth at Vopak until September 21, 2017.  

Vessel used their discretion to go to ExxonMobil ahead of Vopak while the Vopak berth was available, the 14 hours did not count, nor did time while carrying out operations at ExxonMobil. Although originally, Owner’s claim had included this 14 hours, a revised calculation from Owner excluded it thus the $31K demurrage amount.  The time then began to count again when the Vessel arrived at Galveston Anchorage on September 17th after completing operations at ExxonMobil. However, the Vopak berth was not accessible at the time. The stipulations of the Charter, as well as the circumstances in this case, put Charterer at danger of being delayed owing to traffic congestion at Vopak. Rather than wait at anchorage for the Vopak berth to clear and miss the opportunity to load a Kinder Morgan cargo when that berth became available (before the Vopak berth became available), Owner used its charter discretion to load at Kinder Morgan, for which Owner did not charge Charterer for this period. The Vopak berth became available on September 20th at some point. The exact timing is unknown, but the Vessel went directly to Vopak after completing cargo operations at Kinder Morgan, and Owner accurately added the time spent loading Charterer’s cargo at Vopak to the waiting time previously accrued as per calculation.

The arbitrator awarded Owner demurrage in the amount of $31,449.84 and interest.  In doing so, the arbitrator seemed to stress that Owner had revised its claim amount to this figure thus implying Owner was in agreement with it.  Owner was also awarded an allowance towards its legal fees.

As put forth by Owner in its arbitration submission and integral to the arbitrator’s position was the notion that time runs uninterrupted save fault of the shipowner or an express exonerating clause; and precedent in the form of The Ladylike, SMA 3345 and Stolt Tankers v. Landmark Chemicals S.A. (Stolt Spur) 1 Lloyd’s Rep 786.