Saturday, June 22, 2024

Bay of Biscay- deviation and delay due to adverse weather

The master decided to alter course and speed within the Bay of Biscay to mitigate the effects of severe weather and to ensure the safety of the crew, ship and cargo. After that, the master stopped the ship for some hours to an area close to shore and less affected by the bad weather. The master reported damages on the deck. Charterers said that the ship was off-hire and/or claimed damages for this delay, i.e. the deviation and stoppage for some hours. Owners denied liability. Consequently, the parties entered into settlement negotiations. One of the parties asked my assistance in negotiating this claim. I provided comments in an effort to settle this case and avoid arbitration proceedings. Finally, the parties settled the case without incurring substantial costs to pursue or defend this case.

The parties focused on the following points:

  1. The relevant provisions in the charter concerning off-hire or damages claims.
  2. Masters’ overriding authority.
  3. Contemporaneous documents proving the severity of the weather.
  4. Whether the ship was unseaworthy and/or the master failed to prosecute the voyage with the utmost despatch.
  5. Charterers asserted that the master was incompetent and was afraid to meet the weather ahead, which was not so bad for this particular period. In contrast, other ships did not stop inside the Bay of Biscay.
  6. The course of other ships in the area (this is not always relevant). It depends on many parameters.
  7. The WRC’s deviation calculations for the various manoeuvres inside the Bay of Biscay.
  8. Two weather routing companies’ advice on the prevailing weather conditions and their risk assessment by following the direct route or alternate route.
  9. Given the progress of settlement negotiations, there was no need to adduce expert evidence regarding the masters’ navigational decisions and incur further costs.

Important Note: no further information can be provided as to the parties or their representatives or otherwise.

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