Over the years, we have had numerous cases involving deviation and the usual process is to get one’s ruler out and mark out the deviation from the optimal course required by the charterer, with the time and cost of the said deviation (to include bunkers and port costs etc) being for the shipowners’ account. That often involves a comparison of the angle of deviation and total extra sea time over the optimal route and of course a comparison of the extra time on the voyage in question.
Easy enough so far, but what happens when the vessel deviates and encounters bad weather whilst regaining its original course? That was the issue in a recent arbitration (London Arbitration 11/22) where there was a deviation to a port in Vietnam for an agreed crew change. After the crew change, the vessel encountered bad weather and was delayed. The owners argued that the time and cost associated with the delay was for charterers’ account. The charterers disagreed, arguing that this was a consequence of the deviation and thus for owners’ account. They argued, amongst other things, that but for the deviation the vessel would not have encountered that weather and time would not have been lost. The Tribunal decided that the consequence of the bad weather was for the charterers’ account because the deviation provision in the charter was not wide enough to encompass all the consequence of the deviation. It simply stated that “deviation time/bunker/costs” to be for the owners’ time and account. It seems therefore that if the parties want to agree that all consequences of a deviation should be for owners’ account, they need to insert a much wider provision in the charter.
The case in question was conducted under the Small Claims Procedure (SCP) but it involved quite complex legal issues including an argument over whether the Club handling the case for ship owners could recover their in-house legal fees (the tribunal ruled that they could). SCP cases cannot be appealed and so there is always an issue as to whether the decision is correct.
Constantin von Hirsch