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SPOTCHECKLEGAL


Ultimately, the changes surrounding


compliant fuels and adhering to the new regulations have the potential to present the perfect storm for litigators dealing with disputes between owners, charterers and bunker suppliers in cases of non- compliance, warned law firm Hill Dickinson.


Where responsibility lies Shipowners bear the responsibility for complying with the global sulphur cap. Where a vessel is not fitted with a scrubber, ensuring compliance presents a number of complicated practical issues for shipowners, ranging from availability of compliant bunkers, completeness of paperwork on board, tank and line cleaning, through to a detailed understanding of fuel stability, compatibility and segregation issues. According to Hill Dickinson, shipowners


tend to devolve the responsibility for supplying a vessel’s bunkers to their time charterers and this may give rise to contractual disputes, particularly where fuel supplied is found to be marginally above the 0.5 percent sulphur content absolute limit set by the IMO. There is presently little guidance available


as to the attitude that will be taken by the Marpol authorities to marginal breaches of the sulphur cap. Each authority is able to set its own regulations, and potentially


clean? Were the tanks completely clean? “Further, the potential disparity between


the Marpol sample and commercial samples will come into sharper focus – owners will be fined on the basis of the Marpol sample. Contractual disputes are likely to focus on the commercial sample and arguments around the applicable margin of error to test results as charterers and bunker suppliers seek to show that they delivered compliant fuel.” Hill Dickinson strongly recommends


that time charter parties and related bunker supply contracts should contain carefully worded provisions to clarify bunker specifications, sampling procedures and how the potential loss of time owing to inspections and de-bunkering operations is to be shared.


There are a great number of issues which may radically impact on the liability situation. It is gearing up to the perfect storm for litigators. – Beth Bradley, Hill Dickinson


enforcement, and the fines associated with non-compliance will be uneven. Stressing the importance of having


detailed and careful charter party arrangements, Beth Bradley, a Hill Dickinson partner, said: “There are a great number of issues which may radically impact on the liability situation. It is gearing up to the perfect storm for litigators. “The interesting area is what happens


where you have ordered a compliant fuel, it looks like a compliant fuel, but when it is tested it is just off-specification, just slightly over the 0.5 percent – whose responsibility is that? “We know how bunker quality disputes


usually work out between owners and time charterers and [between] time charterers and bunker suppliers – there is always a fight about whether the problem arose from the fuel supplied or how it was handled on board. The sulphur cap adds a further layer of complication. If the relevant authority concludes that the vessel has to de-bunker, who is going to pay the costs? There will be a lot more focus on what has happened on board. Such as, were the lines completely


HLPFI


www.heavyliftpfi.com


January/February 2020


87


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