Ship finance without a ship? Addressing the risks of newbuild financing

“It is good that I make you build, of this ship which shall sail on the sea, the hull, the decks and the mast, and then on a sunny day, like on a wedding day, I have you dress her of sails and gift her to the sea.”

Whether it is, as for Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a result of one’s poetic nature, or for more prosaic purposes, there are a variety of reasons for ordering new vessels. Some shipowners do so to satisfy their specific trading needs or to take advantage of more favourable credit and tax opportunities while others want to make the switch to new fuels and technology, take advantage of market rates as they repeatedly set new all-time highs or to expand or diversify activities; and sometimes for a combination thereof. From cruise ships to containerships, tankers, and bulk carriers, and offshore vessels, shipowners are always on the lookout for financial partners to assist with the capital needs associated with newbuilds. Various forecasts anticipate that the shipbuilding market will grow over the next few years, off the back of the industry effort towards green shipping and the ever growing appetite for seaborne trade.

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Court of Appeal overturns judgement on acceptable security in collision matter

Pacific Pearl Co Limited v Osios David Shipping Inc [2022] EWCA Civ 798

The Court of Appeal (“CA”) has overturned the decision of Justice Teare that security tendered under the Admiralty Solicitor Group form ASG 2 (Collision Jurisdiction Agreement) (“CJA”) needed to be subjectively acceptable to the offeree. Instead the CA has determined that it is sufficient that it be objectively acceptable.

The case

The decision followed the earlier ruling by Sir Nigel Teare (as reported in Lloyd’s Law Reports, [2022] 1 Lloyd’s Rep. 261) in an action brought by owners of the Panamax Alexander (“PA”) against the owners of Osios David (“OD”), with whom they collided, alleging breach of the CJA clause C. This clause provides that “Each party will provide security in respect of the other’s claim in a form reasonably satisfactory to the other.”

The owners of the PA proposed security which contained a sanctions clause (the scheme of the ASG 2 is that it is expected to be used with a plain security in the form of ASG 1). This was rejected by the owners of the OD on the basis that it was not reasonably satisfactory to them. In the first instance it was held that such security from a prominent International P&I Club must be objectively reasonable but that there was nothing in the CJA that compelled the recipient to accept it and that they were at liberty to seek better security elsewhere including by arrest.

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EU sixth package of sanctions against Russia

On June 3, 2022, the European Union Council adopted a sixth package of sanctions against Russia, which will phase-out the import of Russian oil and petroleum products over the next six to eight months.  This particular round of sanctions will not restrict the import of gas, but official guidance warns that “nothing is off the table”.

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Solving the ‘possession’ problem – Law Commission publishes draft legislation for the legal recognition of electronic trade documents

In our October 2021 blog “Possession as we (don’t) know it!”, we discussed the existing position under English law in respect of electronic trade documents and the scope for reform in light of the Law Commission’s consultation paper and draft legislation “Digital assets: electronic trade documents (2021) Law Commission Consultation Paper No 254”, published on 30 April 2021.

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COVID related off-hire decisions from the LMAA

The COVID pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of global commerce, and the shipping industry is no exception having experienced severe disruption in many different ways.

Over the past two years, most maritime lawyers will have received multiple enquiries in relation to delays caused to vessels by COVID, where there is a dispute as to whether owners or charterers are liable under the terms of the charterparty.

Against this background, two London arbitration awards have recently been published which shed some light on how Tribunals are grappling with these issues. Continue Reading

To what are “subjects” subject?

In DHL Project & Chartering Ltd v. Gemini Ocean Shipping Co Ltd [2022] EWHC 181 (Comm), DHL (“Charterers”) succeeded in an application against Gemini (“Owners”) to set aside an arbitration award pursuant to section 67 of the Arbitration Act 1996 (the “Act”).

Mr Justice Jacobs held that a “subject” provision in a putative fixture requiring “shipper/receivers approval” was of an unqualified character. The Court found that the contract would not become binding unless and until Charterers lifted the “subject”, and on the facts, this had never occurred. Accordingly, no arbitration agreement came into existence and the Tribunal did not have substantive jurisdiction when it determined that Charterers had repudiated the charterparty. Continue Reading

Expecting the unexpected – BIMCO releases force majeure clause

In light of the unprecedented challenges faced by the shipping industry in recent years, BIMCO has recently released its long-awaited model force majeure clause for inclusion in charterparties and other shipping contracts.

Reed Smith first reported on the clause in January 2021 in our article All eyes on BIMCO’s new clauses .  

Now that the clause is finally here, what does it say and how can it support the industry?

The context

BIMCO’s new clause aims to provide a comprehensive regime for parties to follow if certain circumstances arise, beyond their reasonable control, that prevent performance of a charterparty or other shipping contract. Force majeure clauses in carriage contracts are traditionally quite rare, with English law preferring to treat the issue as one of risk allocation.

A clearly drafted force majeure clause offers a party the flexibility to suspend performance, and potentially terminate a contract, without, in theory, facing a claim from the unaffected party for breach of contract.

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EEXI and CII – shipping’s next environmental challenge

Introduction

There cannot be many people left in the shipping sector unaware that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has set a target of reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions in shipping by at least 40% by 2030 and pursuing a 70% reduction by 2050.

As a key means of achieving this, the IMO, through the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) has adopted amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Annex VI. These changes will implement major new technical rules called the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI) and the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII). The regulations are due to come into force on 1 January 2023, just over a year from now.

Put simply, EEXI is a framework for determining the efficiency of the design of in-service vessels over 400 GT falling under MARPOL Annex VI. The CII is an operational measure of how efficiently a ship transports goods or passengers measured, in essence, in grams of CO2 emitted by cargo-carrying capacity and nautical mile.

Both EEXI and CII are complex and evolving, with much of the detail still unclear. However, they need to be carefully considered and understood now so that those affected can start planning for January 2023.

In this article, we set out in an easy-to-use table the main points, and explain some of the key issues owners and charterers need to consider. Continue Reading

Exemption clauses subject to contractual interpretation

Exemption clauses, including those purporting to exclude or limit liability for deliberate and repudiatory breaches, are to be construed by reference to the normal principles of contractual construction. There is no presumption in English law that exemption clauses do not apply to fundamental breaches. Nor is there a requirement for any particular form of words or level of language to exclude liability.

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Possession as we (don’t) know it!

Possession and tangibility are closely related concepts long established under English law. Yet a change to these concepts is around the corner. The change could finally unlock the full potential of digital trade documents, while at the same time keeping English law at the forefront of global commerce.

The existing position under English law is that one cannot legally ‘possess’, or have physical control of, something intangible (not including intellectual property rights, which are governed by separate rules). This means that a purely electronic or digital trade document cannot be possessed, and so cannot fulfil the legal functions of its possessable paper equivalent. But the UK Law Commission’s recent proposals for the reform of English law regarding possession of electronic trade documents and the accompanying draft legislation (the Draft Bill) suggest that more universal digitisation of electronic bills of lading and other trade documents will soon be a reality.

Electronic trade documents, at least in the form of ‘e-bills’, have been in use for almost two decades due to their undisputed benefits and efficiency. However, they remain, as the Law Commission puts it, “workarounds” to the problem of intangible, digital documents not being capable of possession under English law. This is primarily because electronic documents are created under multi-party contracts between a closed group of parties engaged in a particular trade that agrees to recognise them as having the same qualities as a paper document.

What the Law Commission’s proposals seek to address is the “possession problem”, a timely example of English law keeping up with technological solutions (including blockchain) to give electronic trade documents the same legal function as their paper equivalents.

What does the new law say?

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