Unusual demurrage notification

A shipbroker member of ITIC fixed a tanker for a voyage from the Black Sea to Singapore. Delays at the discharge port resulted in a demurrage claim of USD 217,000.

The charterparty contained the usual provision that any demurrage claim had to be presented within 90 days together with supporting documents. The way the demurrage claim was forwarded was not however straightforward.

The owner’s post fixture department sent an e-mail to the chartering arm of the owner’s organisation attaching details of the demurrage claim, copying the message to the shipbroker. Allegedly this channel had been used in the past and it was always understood by the owner that the shipbroker would pass on the claim. This arrangement had not been formalised and, on this occasion, the broker overlooked the e-mail. As a result, the charterer rejected the owner’s demurrage claim as time barred. The owners then claimed against the brokers.

One issue was whether it was reasonable for the owner to rely on a broker who had only been copied in on the message to pass it on. The difficulty for the broker was that they had done so in the past and it could be argued that they had assumed responsibility for doing so. In the event, the time bar clause in the charterparty contained an additional provision that legal proceedings had to be commenced in the High Court in London within six months of final discharge.

The owners failed to issue proceedings in time and the claim was time barred.

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