150. Skibsaktieselskapet Snefonn, Skibaksjeselskapet Bergehus and Sig Bergesen D.Y. & Company v Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd (The “Berge Tasta”) [1975] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 422

Redelivery – consecutive voyage charters – charterers ordering vessel on final voyage in anticipation of an overrun

The facts

The vessel was chartered on a Mobil tanker voyage charterparty providing:

“This charterparty is to remain in force for as many consecutive voyages as the vessel can complete within 30 months from 10.50 on 25th April 1969.”

The final voyage was anticipated to overrun by 3 to 5 days.

As matters turned out, the final voyage was completed approximately 16 days late.

The owners claimed damages for breach of contract, contending that the last voyage should have been planned to finish within the agreed time.

Findings

Donaldson J in the Commercial Court found that it was in order for the charterers to plan a voyage which they anticipated would exceed the agreed time by a tolerable margin.

He held further that but for unexpected delays the vessel would have completed its final voyage within a tolerable margin after the stipulated date.

In the circumstances he found that no breach of contract had been proved.

Commentary

Donaldson J must have been influenced by the obiter dictum of Lord Denning MR in the Dione which had been recently decided.

He determined the question by focusing on the planning stage of the final voyage. His reasoning was rejected in the Gregos where greater emphasis was given to the agreed term of the contract between the parties. The general rule as formulated in the Gregos is that there is primary obligation upon the charterers to remain within the time period allowed by the charter. In certain cases, it is possible to imply a reasonable tolerance in the redelivery date. This does not, however, allow the charterers to plan a final voyage which they know will exceed the term of the charter.

This was a hybrid charter and the outcome may be explained by its singular wording.

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