London Arbitration 16/22

A vessel was delivered to charterers on June 1 to perform services in connection with oil installations off of a West African coast. A “Look-ahead Planner” created by the oilfield operators stated that the vessel would discharge cargo at “Port A” from June 11-13 and then take supplies to offshore terminals on June 14. Hire was paid up to and including June 15.

The charterer was advised of an electrical blackout on June 9 at 05:18, and a recurring blackout at 14:48 after which the vessel did not proceed due to safety reasons.

On June 12 at 05:36 the charterer asked the owners if they could provide a similar vessel or have the current vessel fully operational within 48 hours. If not, the charterer would ask for a credit note for the last five days’ hire. 

On June 13 the charterer informed the owner that the master refused to deliver supplies to another vessel, but stated that the chartered vessel “was and still is free to sail anytime to Port A.” 

The necessary part was delivered to the vessel on June 14. On June 17 the charterer informed the owner that the charterparty was canceled as a result of the breakdown and they denied responsibility for delivering the vessel back to the owner since the charter was canceled. The vessel discharged the cargo and was returned to the owner on June 19. 

Relevant charter party provisions included:

Clause 13(a) of the charterparty, headed “Suspension of Hire”, provided:

“If as a result of any deficiency of Crew… breakdown of machinery, damage to hull or other accidents to the Vessel, the vessel is prevented from working, no Hire shall be payable in respect of any time lost and any Hire paid in advance shall be adjusted accordingly…”

The early termination clause, clause 31(b), provided:

“If either party becomes informed of the occurrence of any [breakdown] that party shall so notify the other party promptly in writing and in any case within 3 days after such information is received. If the occurrence has not ceased within 3 days after such notification has been given, this Charter Party may be terminated by either party, without prejudice to any other rights which either party may have …”

The charterer claimed that the vessel was off hire after the breakdown, because she could no longer perform the tasks they required.

The owner claimed that the vessel was never given orders according to the “Look-ahead Planner” and the vessel was ready to perform the services that were initially instructed at all material times. The owner also claimed that the charterer changed their demands after the vessel was deemed unfit for service and could no longer perform. Therefore, the charterer was in breach and the owner would file a counterclaim.

Due to the construction of clause 13(a), it was deemed that the charterer’s orders were not substantially changed from June 10 at 14.48 so the vessel was off hire after that time. The vessel could not have been redelivered until the cargo was discharged at Port A: Italian State Railways v Mavrogordatos [1919] 2KB 305. Thus, the vessel was off hire until June 14, after which it remained on hire until June 19 at 19.50. Clause 31(b) was found to be irrelevant at this time  

The owner was in breach of the charterparty, however the claimant was asked to resubmit the claim focusing on the time on hire and with respect to the security personnel and their position regarding bunkers on redelivery. Costs are to be determined at a later date.