Prior to the vessel’s arrival, the master of the vessel sent an email to the agent asking for advice regarding whether there were any restrictions on the type of fuel that could be used whilst the vessel was both alongside and at “outer roads”.
The agent passed this request to their sub-agent, who in turn approached the local harbourmaster. At this particular port, the responsibility for enforcing the EU Directive relating to the use of low sulphur fuel rested with the harbourmaster. The harbourmaster advised that the vessel was required to burn low sulphur marine gas oil from her arrival at outer roads. This advice was passed back to the master who followed these instructions.
As the vessel waited at anchorage it became clear to the master that he would not have sufficient low sulphur fuel on board to complete operations and, as the vessel was unable to take on additional low sulphur fuel at that port, the owners decided to divert to another port to replenish their supply. The vessel returned to its intended discharge port and operations proceeded without further disruption.
The agent subsequently received a claim from the owners of the vessel for around US$ 150,000. The owners alleged that the information provided to them by their agent was incorrect, and that the local regulations only required vessels to burn low sulphur fuel whilst alongside the berth, and not at anchorage. Low sulphur fuel was more expensive, so the owners were claiming for the additional costs incurred in burning this fuel when - they claimed - this was not necessary, as well as the costs of diverting the vessel to take on the additional low sulphur fuel.
Discussions with both the agent and the sub-agent confirmed that the sub-agent had simply passed on the instructions received from the harbourmaster, and that the agent had passed this, word for word, to the owners. Lawyers were appointed who mounted a vigorous defence to the claim which was subsequently withdrawn. ITIC covered the legal costs of defending the agent.