Admiralty Judgment summaries

Zurich Insurance Ltd & Ors v Halcyon Yacht Charter LLP & Ors (Admiralty Registrar Davison)

Application to stay the claim on the ground that the proper forum was Greece, not England.

A fire broke out on a motor yacht in Gouvia Marina, Corfu causing damage to other vessels.  The owners of the motor yacht sought a limitation decree in England.  (The limitation amount in England for this casualty was substantially lower than that prevailing in Greece.)  The owners of one of the vessels damaged in the fire had commenced proceedings for damages in Greece and argued that Greece was the proper forum for any claim seeking a limitation decree also.  The court found that the claim for a limitation decree was properly brought in England and that the defendant had not shown that Greece was clearly and distinctly the more appropriate forum for this claim (as opposed to the claim for damages for the loss).

The full judgment [2024] EWHC 937 (Admlty) can be found on the National Archive.

m.v. Ever Given, SMIT Salvage BV et al. v Luster Maritime SA et al. (Andrew Baker J)

Salvage claim arising out of Suez Canal grounding, blocking the Canal – whether SMIT provided salvage services under a concluded contract precluding a salvage claim at common law

The Ever Given, a 20,388 TEU container ship, grounded in the Suez Canal on 23 March 2021, blocking the Canal.  The grounding made headlines around the world.  The Suez Canal Authority had control of any refloatation operation, but by the time Ever Given refloated on 29 March 2021, at the invitation of her owners, SMIT had a team on board, with onshore support from Holland, and two chartered tugs contributing to the salvage effort.  The extent of SMIT’s contribution is not agreed, but the primary line of defence to SMIT’s salvage claim against the owners of Ever Given was the more fundamental point that, so the owners alleged, a contract had been concluded between them and SMIT governing SMIT’s remuneration.  It was common ground that if that allegation was well founded, there could be no common law salvage claim.  On a trial as a preliminary issue of the question whether the contract alleged by the owners had been concluded, it was held that by the exchange of emails relied on by the owners, read objectively and in context, the parties had not purported to conclude a contract, but rather had made clear to each other that they were still negotiating terms and did not intend to be bound unless and until those negotiations were completed, which in the event they never were.

The full judgment, [2023] EWHC 697 (Admlty), can be found on the National Archive.

Belpareil c/w Kiran Australia
Denver Maritime Ltd v Belpareil AS (Andrew Baker J)

Collision at anchorage off Chattogram, Bangladesh – whether fault presumed against ship dragging anchor – whether presumption rebutted – causative fault and apportionment determined on trial of liability

The Belpareil and the Kiran Australia are materially identical, geared Supramax bulk carriers.  They came into collision at the end of a lengthy period of collision avoidance after Belpareil dragged her anchor and, unable to counter or control the dragging because of main engine difficulties, headed under the influence of the flood tide current towards Kiran Australia’s anchored position.  After a trial of liability, both ships were held at fault, but Belpareil’s fault was judged to be substantially the greater and responsibility was apportioned 70:30 against her under s.187 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995:

  • Belpareil was at fault because she dragged her anchor, the law presumes that ships do not drag without fault, and that presumption had not been rebutted: Marsden and Gault, 15th Ed., para.5-051, and cases there cited, considered, and the law clarified;
  • Belpareil was at fault in failing to give prompt and clear warning to surrounding shipping, including Kiran Australia, that because of her main engine difficulties she was at real risk of being or becoming close to a dead ship at the mercy of the elements;
  • Belpareil was at fault in failing to deploy a second anchor to arrest or control her dragging; and
  • both ships were at fault in the final few minutes prior to colliding in how they manoeuvred and failed to respond to the other’s manoeuvring;
  • all of those faults were effective contributory causes of the eventual collision (unlike Belpareil’s failure prompty to call for tug assistance, which was also negligent but which it had not been shown had any impact on events).

The full judgment, [2024] EWHC 362 (Admlty) can be found on the National Archives.

FMG SYDNEY c/w MSC APOLLO (Sir Nigel Teare)

Collision off Tianjin, China – liability apportionment – importance of crossing rule, especially the obligations of the ‘give-way’ vessel

These two vessels collided on 20 August 2020 in the approaches to Tianjin, China. APOLLO was held solely to blame for the collision having failed to comply with her obligations as the give-way vessel under the crossing rules, Rules 15 and 16 of the Collision Regulations. SYDNEY was found not have her breached her obligations as the stand-on vessel pursuant to Rule 17 of the Collision Regulations.

The Court made observations (see paragraphs 97-106) as to the scope of Rule 14 (vessels meeting on reciprocal or nearly reciprocal course) and also (see paragraphs 127-130) as to the meaning of the stand-on vessel’s duty to maintain her speed and the basic importance of compliance with the Collision Regulations (see paragraph 142).

The full judgment [2023] EWHC 328 (Admlty), may be found on the National Archives.


Transatlantic yacht delivery – whether carried out with reasonable care and skill

The Admiralty Court considered whether a professional yacht delivery from France to the eastern seaboard of the USA had been planned and executed with reasonable care and skill and, in the context of the claim, whether damage that the yacht sustained was due to her being sailed into a storm or was attributable to production defects.  The court resolved both questions in favour of the defendant.

The full judgment, [2022] EWHC 2858 (Admlty), may be found on the National Archives.

m.v. NYK Orpheus c/w m.v. Panamax Alexander MV Pacific Pearl Co Ltd v NYK Orpheus Corp et al. (Andrew Baker J)

Suez Canal collision – liability and apportionment between three ships

On 15 July 2018, the m.v. Panamax Alexander was wholly responsible for a collision in the Suez Canal that left her disabled: see Sakizaya Kalon [2020] EWHC 2604 (Admlty). Before she had been cleared out of the Canal, a northbound convoy was sent past her the following morning.The m.v. NYK Falcon, an extremely large container ship, came past at no.3 in the convoy, causing Alexander to lose her moorings and swing out into the main channel of the Canal.  The m.v. NYK Orpheus, a very large container ship following the Falcon at no.4 in the convoy, failed to stop in time and collided with her.

Held:  there was fault on the part of all three ships, responsibility for which should be apportioned under s.187 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 in the proportions 5:5:2 (Alexander:Orpheus:Falcon).

The full judgment, [2022] EWHC 2828 (Admlty), can be found on the National Archive.

m.v. MSC Flaminia (No.2) MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co S.A. v Stolt Tank Containers B.V. et al. (Andrew Baker J)

Admiralty Limitation Claim – dangerous cargo, explosion and fire – whether registered owner’s claim against the time charterer, established in arbitration, subject to tonnage limitation under Article 2.1 of the Amended 1976 Limitation Convention

The Admiralty Court considered for the first time since The CMA Djakarta [2004] EWCA Civ 114 whether tonnage limitation under the Amended 1976 Convention applies to a claim by an owner against its time charterer other than a claim in respect of a cargo claim brought against the owner and sought to be passed on to the time charterer.

Held:  tonnage limitation does not apply only to claims relating to losses suffered by parties who are not “shipowners” as defined by the Convention (a definition that includes charterers); for example, a cargo claim by a charterer who owned the cargo would be limitable; however, the owner’s claim in the present case was properly characterised as a claim in respect of damage to the ship (including consequential loss resulting therefrom), and such a claim is not limitable; in any event, if to the contrary the owner was to be treated as having made a series of separate claims for different categories of expenditure it had incurred, none of the losses in question fell within Article 2.1(a), Article 2.1(e) or Article 2.1(f) as variously relied on by the time charterer.

The full judgment, [2022] EWHC 2746 (Admlty), is available online.

m.v. Western Moscow c/w m.t. Wilforce
WILFORCE LLC et al. v RATU SHIPPING CO SA et al. (Sir Nigel Teare)

Collision Claim – collision in a ‘Precautionary Area’ of the Singapore Straits Traffic Separation Scheme between the bulk carrier Western Moscow and the LNG tanker Wilforce – applicability of crossing rule where crossing situation brought about by the faulty navigation of one of the ships – liability and apportionment in respect of the collision in this case

The Admiralty Court considered for the first time a collision claim relating to a collision in a designated ‘precautionary area’. A difficult question arose whether the crossing rule in the Collision Regulations did not apply because Western Moscow (the stand-on vessel under the crossing rule, if it applied) created the crossing situation by bad navigation. It was not necessary to decide that question, as the proper action that Western Moscow should have been taken was the same whether the crossing rule applied or not. She was much more at fault for the collision than Wilforce, but there was fault on both sides. Liability was apportioned 75:25.

The full judgment, [2022] EWHC 1190 (Admlty), is available online.

m.v. MSC Flaminia
Msc Mediterranean Shipping Co S.A. V Stolt Tank Containers B.V. et al. (Andrew Baker J)

Admiralty Limitation Claim – dangerous cargo, explosion and fire – time charterer claiming to limit under Amended 1976 Convention – shipowner defending under Article 4 and/or Article 2 – whether Article 4 defence defeated by issue estoppel from arbitration – whether anti-suit injunction should be granted to restrain shipowner from seeking to enforce arbitration award.

The arbitral award created an issue estoppel sufficient to defeat the Article 4 defence. Anti-suit injunction to restrain enforcement of award refused: the application was premature and contrary to the understanding that the enactment of the Amended 1976 Convention is not intended to dictate to other courts.

The full judgment, [2022] EWHC 835 (Admlty) can be found on the National Archive.

m.v. Ever Smart c/w m.t. Alexandra I

Collision Claim – crossing rule and narrow channel rule – apportionment of fault reconsidered following Supreme Court decision on the crossing rule, [2022] UKSC 6 – impact on costs of various offers to compromise the question of apportionment

Responsibility for a collision near the entrance channel for Jebel Ali port, between the container ship Ever Smart and the VLCC Alexandra I, was apportioned 70:30, reconsidering the respective faults of the two ships in light of the decision by the Supreme Court that the crossing rule in the Collision Regulations had applied (the original apportionment was 80:20 on the basis that the crossing rule did not apply). Prior to the original trial, Alexandra I had offered to settle at 70:30, then at 60:40. The 60:40 offer was reiterated before the appeal to the Supreme Court and again before the reapportionment hearing, but had not been reiterated between the original trial decision and the decision of the Court of Appeal on the crossing rule. In a separate judgment dealing with consequential matters, the court considered the impact of those offers on the correct order to be made as to costs

The full judgments, [2022] EWHC 206 (Admlty) and [2022] EWHC 830 are available online.