Stolt Tankers BV v. Stryker Fuels LLC (MT “MONAX”) – SMA No. 4449, 4 August 2022
The MT Monax was chartered under an amended Asbatankvoy 1 charterparty with Stryker Rider clauses on June 29, 2021, to make two voyages. The first voyage was from Ontario to New York carrying 50,000 barrels of Residual Fuel Oil (RFO), and the second voyage was from Ontario to Belgium carrying 80,000 barrels of two different clean products. The voyages were completed between July 1 and September 3.
On September 23, 2021, the owner, Stolt Tankers, submitted a claim for damages because they stated that the RFO was unstable which prevented complete discharge and required extensive tank cleaning.
Relevant charterparty provisions included:
“Clause 20: Time Bar Clause
(a) Charterer shall be discharged and released from all liability in respect of any claim/invoice Owner may have sent to Charterer under this Charter party unless a claim/invoice in writing accompanied by all supporting documents to substantiate each and every constituent part of the claim shall have been received by Charterer within sixty (60) days of completion of discharge of the cargo covered by this Charter party. All claims shall become due for payment after completion of the voyage.”
Stolt Tanker’s notice for arbitration proceedings over these damages was submitted on December 8, 2021. However, the charterer, Stryker Fuels, claimed that the panel should dismiss the claim and award them arbitration fees because the 60 day time bar set forward in clause 20 had already passed. They stated that Stolt should have submitted a notice of claim by September 13, which was the end of the 60 days after the completion of the first voyage.
Stryker cited previous SMA awards such as, The KATRINA P., SMA No. 3038 (Jan. 12, 1994) (Arnold, Sole Arb.), Sun Oil Trading v. The Belcher Co., SMA No. 2637 (Jan. 17, 1990) (Berg, Sole Arb.), The STOLT PRIDE, SMA No. 3647 (Oct. 20, 2000) (Forti, Siciliano & Mordhorst), and The ATHENA, SMA No. 2178 (Dec. 5, 1985) (Flanagan, van Gelder & Cohen), in which the panel ruled that the time bar clauses should be upheld and enforced.
Stolt countered that clause 20 was not applicable in this case and was ambiguous in its wording. Stolt also argued that since the RFO was unable to be fully discharged, the 60 day time bar period should have been delayed. They cited previous SMA cases in which the ambiguity of the time bar clause had been used to rule against the party that drafted it (The ATLAND, SMA No. 2217(1985) (Goldstein, Berg, Sauer) and The INFRA, SMA No. 3105 (1994) (Nelson, Siciliano, Martowski)). Stolt stated that the non-specific language in clause 20 meant that the time bar period should only have begun after the completion of discharge of the second and final cargo.
The panel ruled that Stryker failed to prove Stolt’s claim was time barred by clause 20 of the charterparty. The panel said that clause 20 was not specific to a certain cargo and therefore Stryker could not claim the time bar period to begin after the first cargo. The panel also agreed with Stolt’s citation of previous SMA rulings about the ambiguity of the clause.
Stryker’s motion to dismiss the claim to damages was denied, and the decision regarding fees and costs was to be made at a later time.