Admiralty Judgment summaries
Recent Commercial Court judgments are available online.
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,  EWHC 697 (Admlty), can be found on the National Archive.
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  EWHC 328 (Admlty), may be found on the National Archives.
S/Y “VLARODA” ANDREW ARNOLD v HALCYON YACHTS LIMITED (Mr Admiralty Registrar Davison)
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,  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  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,  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  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,  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,  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,  EWHC 835 (Admlty) (external link) can be found on the National Archive.
m.v. Ever Smart c/w m.t. Alexandra I
NAUTICAL CHALLENGE LTD V EVERGREEN MARINE (UK) LTD (Sir Nigel Teare)
Collision Claim – crossing rule and narrow channel rule – apportionment of fault reconsidered following Supreme Court decision on the crossing rule,  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,  EWHC 206 (Admlty) and  EWHC 830, are available online.