REGULUS SHIP SERVICES PTE LTD v (1) LUNDIN SERVICES BV (2) IKDAM PRODUCTION SA  EWHC 2674 (Comm)
In this case, the meaning of the term “in light ballast condition” came up for consideration by the Court for a second time. The irony being that the earlier precedent derived from another dispute that the same claimant had brought before the Commercial Court a decade earlier.
This latest dispute concerned the relocation of an FPSO from the Mediterranean to Malaysia. The claimant was the owner of a 1980 built AHTS, engaged on TOWCON terms to tow the FPSO to her new field for a lump sum payment. The respondents were the owner of the FPSO and its affiliate and disclosed agent.
The FPSO had started life in 1971 as an Aframax size tanker, before being adapted to serve as a shuttle tanker for North Sea production and then converted to an FPSO.
The conversion required, amongst the more obvious changes, the ‘chopping-off’ of most of her bulbous bow, so as not to interfere with the mooring pendant (and combined risers) that, when on station as an FPSO, were rigged from her bow. As a result of this modification, the remnant of her bulbous bow presented a blunt vertical face.
The claimant wanted the FPSO to be de-ballasted to reduce drag through the water and to achieve a significant stern trim in order to increase the directional stability of the tow. They had towed a similar FPSO and were confident that this was the optimum disposition.
However, the respondents considered that the FPSO would tow better with her blunted forward appendage submerged. They clearly also had in mind that this disposition might reduce the structural fatigue imparted upon (and thus prolong the life of) the already aged FPSO.
As the FPSO would be manned during the tow, adjustments to her ballast could be made on passage. Therefore, in the end, the TOWCON charterparty was agreed and the convoy set-off with the drafts (forward and aft, and thus the trim) of the FPSO still under discussion. The claimant apparently comforted by the warranty that the tow would be “in light ballast condition”.