Manager’s maintenance matters

A ship manager was responsible for the technical management of a bulk carrier which called regularly at an Australian port to load iron ore.

The master had notified the manager of a problem with the winch used for the vessel’s mooring rope. The winch was still operational, but the pinion gear was worn and needed to be replaced. The manager had taken no action to arrange the repairs.

Over the following months, the vessel called on a number of occasions at the same port. Each time, when the pilot went on board, the master explained this problem to him, and the pilot was satisfied that, given the mooring lines could be lifted by the winch, the vessel was able to berth safely.

The situation continued until one pilot decided that they would not accept the master’s assurances and refused to allow the vessel to berth. The pilot spoke to the Harbour Master, who instructed the vessel to go to the anchorage until the winch could be repaired. This was done, causing a 4 day delay to the vessel. The vessel went off-hire in accordance with the terms of the charter-party.

The owners subsequently brought a claim for around US$150,000 against the manager for (a) the hire not paid to them by the charterers during the off-hire period, and (b) the additional costs incurred as a result of having to rectify this problem outside of scheduled maintenance. The owners asserted that, had the manager arranged for the repairs to be carried out once they were first made aware of the issue, this could have been done without the vessel having gone off-hire.

Investigations confirmed that this was the case, but that the charterers had incorrectly calculated the off-hire period. ITIC also reviewed the owner’s claim, and determined that some of the losses claimed would have been incurred irrespective of the manager’s negligence.

Ultimately, however, it was clear that the manager had breached their obligations to the owner under the ship management agreement and a settlement of the claim was negotiated by ITIC of US$120,000.

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