London Arbitration 6/22
NYPE FORM – TIME CHARTER – HOLD CLEANING – OFF HIRE DURING EXTENDED HOLD CLEANING – COVID-19 PANDEMIC – COVID-19 PROTOCOLS – OFF HIRE DUE TO ALLEGED CREW SICKNESS
Alleged off-hire for hold cleaning – Clause 10 of the fixture recap required the vessel’s holds to be cleaned at the first load port. Holds were to be washed down by fresh water, dried, free from residues, and inspected by an independent surveyor before cargo loading. Charterers allowed 24 hours free time for the cleaning to be completed and anything over this time would be the owners’ responsibility.
The vessel began the charterers’ service at 13:44 on 29 June 2020 and arrived off the first load port at 04:30 on June 30. She began drifting to clean the holds. At 19:22 on June 30 owners indicated the hold cleaning was complete and the vessel started to the first load port anchorage. Owners accepted they had gone over the 24 hours and allowed 0.2347 days as off-hire.
The charterers contested this calculation, claiming the hold cleaning continued until arrival at the first load port. They asserted the vessel was off-hire until 03:36 on 1 July, when the notice of readiness was tendered. They cited a 26 June message from the owners and excessive maneuvering by the vessel on the way to the port as evidence.
The owners rejected these allegations, claiming there was no proof the hold cleaning was not completed as reported. In addition, the 26 June message was sent prior to the charterers’ service and reflected expected, not actual events. The owners had acknowledged the additional cleaning time as off-hire, but insisted that once the hold was cleaned, the vessel was in service with no breach of charterparty.
The tribunal concurred with the owners and rejected the charterers’ assertion that the 24-hour period was to be used for cleaning and sailing to the load port. With no proof of their allegations of extended cleaning or circuitous travel, the tribunal concluded the vessel was on hire after 19:22 on 30 June until arrival at the first load port. The owners’ email was deemed irrelevant.
Alleged off-hire for alleged crew sickness – Upon arrival at port, one crew member’s temperature registered slightly elevated at 37.4ºC. The quarantine officer ordered a nucleic acid test for Covid-19, causing a delay to discharge from 14:40 on 26 July to 15:30 on 28 July.
Charterers claimed the vessel was off-hire citing both clause 15 for “deficiency of men” and clause 45, breach of charterparty, for the crew failing to comply with vaccination and sanitary regulations.
Owners counterclaimed that the delay was due to port authorities’ health protocols at a port the charterers had ordered the vessel, placing the burden squarely on the charterers. Further, a temperature of 37.4ºC was within normal limits and the crew member was not ill nor unable to execute his duties. Therefore, no crew sickness caused the delay and there was no evidence the owners violated any vaccination or sanity regulations.
The tribunal agreed with the owners. While acknowledging the Covid-19 pandemic, the tribunal found no evidence that the owners were in breach of clause 45 or 15. Vaccination and sanitary regulations were followed, and no crew illness caused the delay. Consequently, no off-hire occurred.