Monday, July 15, 2024

Deviation- whether the master’s decision was justified

The vessel was chartered on an amended NYPE form for a voyage from a port in Thailand to a port in China. One of the disputes concerned the charterers’ deduction from hire due to the masters’ decision not to follow the shorter and direct route recommenced by their appointed weather routing company, resulting in extra time loss on the voyage. Consequently, the dispute was referred to arbitration in London.

The owners’ case was that the masters’ decision to move further offshore in one part of the voyage was due to safety reasons, given the presence of fishing vessels in the area. Additionally, in another part of the voyage, the master decided to alter course to avoid the effect of heavy rolling and pitching.

The charterers’ case was that the owners had failed to comply with clause 8 of the charter party that required the vessel to proceed with utmost despatch to her destination. Further, the charterers rejected the owners’ submission that the charterers consented to this decision because they made no complaint when the master reported the course change to the weather routing company. In terms of evidence, the owners have offered nothing to support the masters’ decision for safe navigation- as alleged.

The tribunal dismissed the charterers’ claim and felt reluctant to challenge the masters’ navigational decisions in the absence of any evidence produced by the charterers to support that no reasonable master would make this decision. The tribunal expressed the view that a witness statement from the master with reasons to justify his decision would assist. Still, even without the same, this did not affect the owners’ case because of the sufficient information supporting his decision.

In a similar settled case, the parties’ arguments centred on the Hill Harmony case and tried to distinguish it since the facts of that case were too extreme and did not bear a striking resemblance to the present case. Charterers contended that the proposed route was not unsafe; the presence of fishing vessels did not render a route unsafe, as this was a standard route for ships of a similar size that navigated successfully without similar safety issues arising. In another arbitration award, a similar view expressed that a risk of collision did not mean that fishing vessels really imposed a threat to merchant shipping. All required was for the crew to exercise vigilance when navigating the area.

Note: no additional information can be provided for this Award. This website removes the names of the parties involved or referred to the Award.

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