When is a major not a major?

  • Date: 03/03/2008

A bunker broker received an order from a ship operator for a stem of fuel oil and marine diesel oil. The operator provided the specifications and quoted the bunker clause from the relevant charterparty which stated, “Bunkers to be supplied only by the international oil majors (i.e. Exxon, BP, Shell, Chevron, Mobil, Texaco or their merger successors)”. Unfortunately, the broker had failed to read the bunker clause properly, obtained a good price from a large international oil supplier and provided the quote to the operator. The operator asked whether the supplier was a “major” – the broker checked with the physical suppliers who confirmed that they were a “major supplier of oil worldwide”.

The day before the ship was due to lift the bunkers it became clear that the supplier was not a major as defined by the charterparty clause. The booking was cancelled and a new booking made from a recognised oil major. Unfortunately the market had moved against the operator since the original booking and the replacement booking cost him USD 25,000 more, which he claimed from the broker.

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